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General Medical Questions
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Question : Do violent video games cause violent behavior?
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The Trusted Source
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Howard LeWine, M.D.

Michael Craig Miller, M.D Michael Craig Miller, M.D., is Senior Editor of Mental Health Publishing at Harvard Health Publications. He is an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Miller is in clinical practice at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where he has been on staff for more than 25 years.

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May 07, 2013
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Recent surveys show that almost 100% of children play some type of video game. About two-thirds (more boys than girls) play games that contain violent content.Experts disagree about their impact. But they agree that parents can take steps to limit negative effects.Large reviews of the scientific literature do find a link between violent video games. They see increased aggressive thinking and behavior in some youths. But the research has not proved cause and effect.Furthermore, most of the research does not look at real world violence. It studies laboratory measures of aggression.Other good news — the rate of serious violent crimes among youths has gone down during periods when video game sales have soared.Some experts single out the role-playing seen in violent games. They worry that these games serve as rehearsals for real violence.But others think playing violent video games may be part of normal development, especially in boys. The fun for boys — as in the physical roughhousing they do — is in the competition, not the violence.To protect children from potential harm, follow a few commonsense strategies:

  • Check the rating to understand video game content.
  • Play video games with children to understand the content, and your child's reaction.
  • Place game machines and computers in common areas, not the child's bedroom.
  • Limit screen time, for example, to two hours.
  • Encourage sports and games that don't involve screens.

Video games share much in common with other pursuits that are enjoyable and rewarding. Many can become hazardous in certain contexts. Parents can best protect their children by remaining engaged with them and providing necessary limits and guidance.

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