|Boy plays a war video game in a games centre|
Watching violent video games, films and TV shows really can make children more aggressive, scientists believe. And the more violent the scenes and the longer they last, the more normal the behaviour seems. In the most comprehensive study to date looking at the link between on screen and real life violence, scientists got a group of boys aged 14 to 17 to watch a series of video clips while using scans to study their brain activity. The results were striking...
The longer the youths watched the brutality, which included football hooliganism and street brawls, the less their brains lit up. 'Sweat tests' showed that they also became less excited by the action over time. However, videos with little or no violence held the boys' attention - suggesting the lack of interest in the violent films was not due to boredom but to their minds becoming desensitised, or numb, to the action.
Study leader Dr Jordan Grafman, of the National Institutes of Health at Bethesda, Maryland, said:
'It is especially important to understand this because adolescence is a time when the brain is changing and developing, particularly in the parts of the brain that control emotions, emotional behaviour and responses to external events. Most people can distinguish between playing a video game and real live behaviour, but given the right circumstances where the rules are a bit more ambiguous (what if a bully provokes me) and provocative (someone is trying to take my lunch money), would an adolescent tend to be more aggressive and accept that aggression as normal behaviour given prior exposure to video games? I think so. Particularly if they are a heavy user of games and, in our device-driven world, that will be more and more likely in the future.'
Writing in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, they concluded: 'We propose that exposure to aggressive media results in a blunting of emotional responses, which in turn may prevent the connection of consequences of aggression with an appropriate emotional response, and therefore may increase the likelihood that aggression is seen as acceptable behaviour.'
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