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Pres. Obama, Republican and Democrat senators back new study into the effects of violent video games on children

As promised, President Barack Obama is pushing forward with legislation to tackle gun violence in the United States in the wake of the Dec. 14 massacre in Newtown. Included in these efforts is a plan to fund new studies into how violent media, and particular video games, effect the development of children. Senate Bill 134, the Violent Content Research Act of 2013, was introduced by Senator Jar Rockefeller (D-WV) on Thursday and the bill is already garnering bipartisan support in the Senate.

“The reality is we are living in an increasingly violent culture which, when coupled with mental illness, can create a very dangerous situation,” said Nevada Republican Senator Dean Heller, “This bill is a step in the right direction towards better understanding the effects of violence on children, and I look forward to the recommendations that result from this report.”

The proposed National Academy of Sciences study will try to determine if violent video games and movies have a “direct and long-lasting impact” on children, and whether that violent media encourages aggressive behavior.

Sen. Rockefeller first proposed the study less than a week after the Newtown shootings. While the Senator’s initiative to study the effects of violent media on people is an appropriate response in the wake of myriad shootings in the United States, particularly after the Colorado shooting during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises, his other proposals calling for the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission to curb violent media is more concerning.

“At times like this, we need to take a comprehensive look at all the ways we can keep our kids safe,” said Rockefeller in December, “I have long expressed concern about the impact of the violent content our kids see and interact with every day. Recent court decisions demonstrate that some people still do not get it. They believe that violent video games are no more dangerous to young minds than classic literature or Saturday morning cartoons. Parents, pediatricians, and psychologists know better.”

It will be interesting to see if the NAS’ findings differ significantly from the 2010 study conducted by Dr. Christopher J. Fergusson and Dr. Stephanie M. Rueda, “The Hitman study: Violent video game exposure effects on aggressive behavior, hostile feelings, and depression.

“[They] took a sample of 103 young adults and had them solve a ‘frustration task.’ Separating the participants into four groups, the researches [sic] had one group play no video game, one play a non-violent video game, one play as good guys in a violent game, and one play as bad guys in a violent game,” the study claimed.

“They found that the games had no impact on aggressive behavior whatsoever, and that the group which played no game at all was the most aggressive after the task, whereas the group that played the violent games were the least hostile and depressed.”

It should be noted that Dr. Fergusson and Dr. Rueda studied the effects on young adults, not young children. Young children though, can’t purchase violent video games of their own accord. The ESRB ratings system is in place to prevent just that.

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