By now, you’ve probably heard what’s been going on in D.C. The great state of California has taken an argument to the highest level of judicial authority. Its position: violent video games cause harm to minors. This supposed ‘harm’ has ranged from vague to fantastic in their legal briefs, but a new study from Yale is set to poke a huge hole in its boat.
Rani Desai, associate professor of psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine sums up the study’s findings very neatly: “Gaming does not appear to be dangerous to kids. We found virtually no association between gaming and negative health behaviors, particularly in boys.”
In fact, some of the study's findings are quite surprising. According to the report, filed November 15th in the online edition of Pediatrics, boys who play videogames are more likely to have higher GPAs, and are less likely to smoke or drink. The author of the study surmises that the fact that gaming in boys was correlative to generally positive, and arguably healthier behaviors, seems to indicate that it's just as normal to play video games as to play sports. Imagine that.
Above: Do you control it…or does it control you?
However, the statistics for girls were very different. Gamer girls were cited to be more likely to get into fights, or bring a weapon to school. But Desai is quick to state, "This finding may suggest not that gaming leads to aggression but that more aggressive girls are attracted to gaming."
Gamers of both sexes were prone to consuming caffeine; however girl gamers apparently drink up to three or more servings than the boys’ one or two.
Among the 4,000 sampled, 5.8 percent of males and 3 percent of females demonstrated what has been called ‘problematic gaming’ (or ‘addiction’ to us poor laymen); however, those within those percentage groups also demonstrated a propensity to smoke, and drink. According to Christopher J. Ferguson, an assistant professor of clinical and forensic psychology at Texas A&M University commenting on the study, this is indicative of a ‘constellation’ of behavior.
"This study shows that, for the vast majority of children, video games are pretty harmless; that problem gaming may be part of a constellation of unhealthy behaviors. If a child can't turn off the games after a reasonable amount of time, isn't doing homework, isn't socializing with other kids - all [of that] can be signs of a problem that may need to be addressed,” said Ferguson. He went on to add, however, that ‘problem gaming’ is a correlative factor, not a causative one.
So why the hell does yet-another study matter?
Above: News flash - no one has played this for years
Well, the same Christopher Ferguson, and 81 other scholars, has filled a brief with the Supreme Court in opposition to the California Video Game Law. Accusing the state of spending millions of dollars on something that isn’t broken, Ferguson cites that California’s flagship boogeyman, Postal, has never even been played by the vast majority of minors (according to a Pew research study). What’s more he suggests the state representatives are falling into the same hysteria as in the 1950’s where experts testified before the United States Senate that Batman and Robin were secretly gay, and reading their comics would lead youths to “delinquency and homosexuality."
“It's time to learn from these mistakes,” Ferguson says. “Some video games may be offensive, but being offensive and harmful are two different things. A law that distracts us from real causes of youth violence and diverts precious money from education and mental health into a law that will help no one is what is truly harmful.”
Will these studies impact the Supreme Court's ruling? Here’s hoping.
Nov 15, 2010