Parents worry that video games are bad for kids, but the evidence on how and why they may be harmful has been confusing.
“Most of popular media puts the most emphasis of concern on aggression,” says psychologist Jay Hull from Dartmouth College. “But aggression is just the tip of the iceberg.”
So Hull looked at other negative behaviors that could be affected by gaming, including binge drinking, smoking cigarettes and unprotected sex. His study found that teenagers who regularly play violent video games such as Manhunt and the Grand Theft Auto series are more likely to take those risks.
The study was published Monday in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Previously Hull led a study that looked at the relationship between violent video games and reckless driving habits. Playing games that promote “acting evil” may distort a teen’s sense of right and wrong, Hull says. In that study he found that teens who played violent video games were more likely to drive recklessly, such as cutting people off while on the highway. Both studies, he says, conclude that video games alter a teen’s sense of self.
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