Study Links Violent Sites and Violent Youth

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For years, research studies have purported to find—and not find—links between violent media like television, movies, and video games, and actual acts of violence committed by consumers of that media. Now, the journal Pediatrics is weighing in, publishing a study linking exposure to violent media to serious violent acts among youth.

In the study, researchers surveyed 1,588 children between 10 and 15 years of age, and examined the relationship between exposure to media violence and "seriously violent behavior" in the children. Some 38 percent of those surveyed reported they had visited at least one type of violent Web site, while 5 percent of respondents reported that they had engaged in some form of "seriously violent behavior within the last year. However, the likelihood that respondents had engaged in seriously violent behavior increased by 50 percent for each type of violent Web site they reported visiting. Young people who responded that "many, most, or all" of the violent Internet sites they visited featured real people engaged in violent ares were five times more likely to engage in violent behavior than their peers.

The study also found that the interactive nature of violent Web sites may be a stronger influence on violent behavior than violent television programming, games, cartoons, movies, or music, the effects of which were found to be much smaller than that of Internet violence.

Of course, the results of the study—if borne out by additional research—don’t really answer the chicken-and-egg problem: are violent Web sites somehow creating violent children, or are violent children simply more likely to seek out violent Web sites. The study’s authors speculate both factors play a role in their results.