Today at the annual meeting for the Radiological Society of America in Chicago, landmark research is being presented on perhaps the most conclusive study to date between violent video games and agression.

The study was conducted by Indiana University researchers in Indianapolis, where “a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) analysis of long-term effects of violent video game play on the brain has found changes in brain regions associated with cognitive function and emotional control in young adult men after one week of game play.”

From the release:
The controversy over whether or not violent video games are potentially harmful to users has raged for many years, making it as far as the Supreme Court in 2010. But there has been little scientific evidence demonstrating that the games have a prolonged negative neurological effect.

“For the first time, we have found that a sample of randomly assigned young adults showed less activation in certain frontal brain regions following a week of playing violent video games at home,” said Yang Wang, M.D., assistant research professor in the Department of Radiology and Imaging Sciences at Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis. “These brain regions are
important for controlling emotion and aggressive behavior.”

For the study, 22 healthy adult males, age 18 to 29, with low past exposure to violent video games were randomly assigned to two groups of 11. Members of the first group were instructed to play a shooting video game for 10 hours at home for one week and refrain from playing the following week. The second group did not play a violent video game at all during the two-week period.

Each of the 22 men underwent fMRI at the beginning of the study, with follow-up exams at one and two weeks. During fMRI, the participants completed an emotional interference task, pressing buttons according to the color of visually presented words. Words indicating violent actions were interspersed among nonviolent action words. In addition, the participants completed a cognitive
inhibition counting task.

The results showed that after one week of violent game play, the video game group members showed less activation in the left inferior frontal lobe during the emotional task and less activation in the anterior cingulate cortex during the counting task, compared to their baseline results and the results of the control group after one week. After the second week without game play, the
changes to the executive regions of the brain were diminished.

“These findings indicate that violent video game play has a long-term effect on brain functioning,” Dr. Wang said.

Coverage of this news is starting to spread across the world, with the USA TodayLA TimesNewsday, and the UK Mirror, among over a hundred other publications having reported on these new findings.

Will this empirical data begin to make policymakers and parents take notice of this growing public health issue?  We at the Media Violence Resource Center certainly hope.

I read the recent article on Yahoo that talked about a wife that put her husband on Craig’s List because she was “tired of waiting” for him while he played video games.  This was supposed to be a funny bit to try and “warn” her husband that he plays video games too much, but what is it really saying?  That we are a society of mindless activities? That adults are now suffering from the same video game addiction that I have been talking about for awhile now?  Could it be displaying that adults are just as guilty of irresponsible behavior as children? or could the article have been a warning to other women out there that when deciding on a husband, make sure you are looking at his hobbies because, contrary to popular opinion video games and video gamers can be addicted to their hobby.  

I am unsure as to what I would do if my husband were truly addicted to video games, but I think it could really affect our daily life.  If you play video games all of the time, when does going out on dates with your wife go on the calendar? When does family time, or family dinner take place?  Where does your job fit in, or exercise, or socializing, or going to your children’s activities, or family functions, clubs or organizations, housework, outside time, etc?  

I think one of the comments that I would like to make is that the article itself was kind of sad, however, it was the comments that made me think.  There were at least 1/3 of the comments that were other gamers that were cheering on the husband and there was another 1/3 that were other wives complaining of THEIR video game addictions.  This means that 2/3 of the comments written are either addicted to video games, or married to adults that are addicted to video games.  This is a sad commentary of the current adult population.  When are we going to stop and take this situation seriously?  Whether it is providing more opportunities or options for those who are addicted, and/or providing support or services to those that are affected by the addicts in their lives.

Posted on November 22nd, 2011 in Media Addiction, Parents Stories | Leave a comment

I have been researching toys for my kids for Christmas, and have been reading all of the reviews.  Over and over again I have been reading that toys for kids are good for “in a pinch” situation, but many of them are highly addictive.  Some of the parents are saying that the video game devices, the tablets and video players are attention suckers, addictive, and change their child’s overall personality.  I am not saying that the reviews haven’t had pros to say about these toys, but some of the negatives are finally coming out.  Parents have been oblivious to the affects of many of these toys for years, but now parents are seeing differences in their children, and are observing older kids who have been affected by these same toys in their early years. 

I think that as parents we have many battles that we fight on a daily basis, from what your child eats, to what they do, to what they play with, to what they say, how they act, how they perform academically, physically, emotionally, socially, etc.  The last battle that we need to be fighting is with the toys and devices that we are buying with our very own money.  The problem is that you don’t realize the affect that a toy has until you have brought it into your home, and had to fight with your child over it!!

The only advice that I have for any parent this Christmas season is that you look up the toy you are buying on Amazon and read ALL of the parent reviews.  It has been helpful and eye opening for sure.  Good luck to all parents!

Posted on November 19th, 2011 in Media Violence Research, Video Game Violence | Leave a comment

As we touched on in our last blog, the Holidays are right around the corner.  Every year it seems like the trees & lights are going up earlier, Santa Claus is in the malls, and the commercials are on TV prompting kids to make their lists.

And, in spite of what some of our constant detractors might claim about us, we’re not anti-video game, but we do think that violent video games can have adverse consequences in kids.

While we provide you with specific inputs, and reviews around the current crop of top sellers for 2011 Christmas, we also want to give a background on our position on violent video games, with supportive research.

While there are differing opinions on whether violent video games directly lead to violence, what we do know both intuitively and through empirical data is that repeated exposure to graphic acts of violence, especially as video games become increasingly lifelike, has a desensitizing effect on gamers, leading to potential antisocial behavior.

Research at Iowa State by Carnegy, Anderson, and Bushman, titled, “The effect of video game violence on physiological desensitization to real-life violence” digs into the data.

The research, using objective data sets, measuring exposure to both non-violent and then violent video games, showed statistically significant less of a response to violence after violent video games were played, than those that had not.  Meaning, physiological response, i.e. heartrate, was higher among those playing non-violent video games, than violent video game players.

Does a reduced heart rate from increased exposure to video violence mean your kids will turn out violent?  There’s no direct correlation.  A more important question, why would you want to desensitize your kids to violence?  We know children have a harder time distinguishing between reality and fantasy, why would you allow a game that would muddy those lines further, in a potentially detrimental fashion?



Posted on November 18th, 2011 in Parents Stories | Leave a comment

With Black Friday right around the corner, the desires and wishes of all of our children are ramping up for the Holidays.

With things like video games, movies, and TV shows still high on many kids Christmas lists, we are encouraging all parents to do the background research of the gift, look at the reviews, and find out everything you can about the games, and media so that ensure the gifts provide not just entertainment, but something of value and not detriment to your kids.

All parents know once you give them the game it is a lot harder to take it away if you find out it is not the game you thought it was.

To help our the parents among our readership, we will be providing as much information as we can about the games on the shelves this year, and perhaps the games on your child’s list.  That way you can make an informed decision before you go to the checkout line at your local retailer.  Good luck to all parents this holiday season!

I was recently talking with a 1st Grade Teacher and she was discussing with me that on Monday mornings the kids in her classroom are asked to share with the rest of the class one thing that they did over the weekend.  She sets the perimeters that they can’t say that they ate, slept, watched TV or played video games.  I asked her why she tells them they can’t talk about the video games, and she told me it was because that would include most of her class, and they would state that almost every time.  I was in disbelief that this was for kids that were six and seven.  She said the scary thing is not THAT they are playing, it is WHAT they are playing and that they are playing them unmonitored, and for however long they want, without much input from the parents.

Because of this conversation with this particular teacher, it has me wondering about video games and children even more.  I think we need to beg parents to take more interest in these things.  The kids that are playing these video games endlessly are the ones that are not spending enough time doing their homework, who aren’t interacting or fully engaging with others.  These are the children that aren’t experiencing things and aren’t outside enjoying what the world has to offer. 

As I have stated before, video games can help certain children, and in certain situations, but those are not the majority of users, nor are they the “normal” consumer.  The “normal” consumer is not using video games once a week as a family activity. The “normal” consumer is not playing phonics games on their XBOX.  The “normal” consumer is not playing sensory stimulating games with their therapist.  The “normal” consumer that the gaming industry is hoping to target is one that will buy the top of the line games, and play them so much, that they will need to go and buy another game because they have already conquered the last game. 

I am just wondering who sticks up for the kid who has parents that don’t care about them and let them play Modern Warfare at 6 years old until all hours of the night.  I am wondering at what point is that considered abuse or neglect?  I am just posing the question of when do we cross the line as parents from being passive parents to being hurtful and neglectful or even abusive parents to our children by letting them watch terrible, horrible, inappropriate things that will hurt them, in this case certain video games?

Posted on November 10th, 2011 in Media Addiction, Parents Stories | Leave a comment

There has been a debate in the therapy world about using any media-type devices with those children having special needs. When you have children that have different types of dissabilities they are sometimes driven by the noise, the action, the visual stimulants caused by media devices. 

There were several articles written in the Pscychology Review about this exact issue.  It was stated that there are some positive outcomes that can come from playing video games in therapy.  It can help with sensory stimulation, reward/dopamine release, executive functioning, and visual perspective.  The kids are easily motivated to conquer certain aspects of therapy when used side-by-side with media stimulation. 

However, the drawback to this kind of therapy is that children with certain disabilities can become obsessed with the games, and it becomes detrimental.  Specifically children with autism have a hard time with using these tools with a sense of limitation.  They want to play these games with an obsessive-like nature.  It is like most things, that in a controlled, limited, observed capacity video games could help children of all abilities, and all levels learn certain skills.  It just can’t take on an obsessive nature that ends up hurting the child in the end.

Posted on November 8th, 2011 in Parents Stories | Leave a comment

I have been wondering what moves us as human beings and children specifically.  We all have seen those Hallmark commercials that bring us to tears and make us want to pen a card to grandma immediately. There are also those army ads that make us want to stand up and put our hands on our hearts, and allow us the opportunity to take pride in our country and who we are.    But what about for children?  I don’t let my children watch much television, but I wonder about the commercials that make my children want to do more than eat a Happy Meal, or buy the latest toy.  Is there a commercial out there that makes my child want to give back to the world? To save someone?  To do something good? 

There are many children that WANT to act, that want to be apart of something bigger than themselves…but has the media capitalized on this?  There are Motivational Media Assemblies that go into schools and try to motivate the youth by using positive video clips assembled to get across a message to act, but what about the average child that doesn’t have those specific opportunities?   

In regards to commercials, Nike has always had some amazingly motivating commercials geared towards improving self-confidance, conquering your fears, becoming motivated to improve your physical health among other topics. One of their big pushes was in 1995 to promote female sports and competition.  Their commercial in 1995 featured girls of all ages and was emotional and filled with facts as to why you should participate in sports as a female, as well as why society should promote girls and sports. 

There is an Apple commercial that talks about “the crazy ones” which provides clips from people like Martin Luther King, Albert Einstein, Ghandi, among others that changed the way we think, changed the way we feel, as well as the way we view the world.  The message is really that for those that are crazy enough to think they can change the world, they are usually the ones that do! 

There is a commercial by Jennifer Connelly that shows what it would be like for us living in the modern world to go and get a glass a water as if we lived in a third world country.  Plus after all of the effort that went into a single glass of water, what it would look like with pollutants. It asked for help, and listed the charity. What a way to motivate children to get up and help other children around the world…..for a simple thing like a glass of water.

Starbucks had a great commercial during the holiday season about thinking about the world being connected, and helping save others by simply buying a cup of coffee. The way it was presented made you think about the world differently. It would be a very different place if we really thought that ALL of us were truly connected in one way or another. 

Dove has had a great ad campaign on motivating females to have better self confidance, and has had women of all ages and sizes appear on the commercial in their underwear, without make-up and has portrayed these things as beautiful.  They encourage you to go to their website where they have online toolkits on helping mothers and fathers work on their daughter’s self-esteem as well as girls helping themselves. 

Animal Planet had a whole campaign about if animals help save the planet, then why can’t we help save the planet for them?  They were humorous commercials that proved that anyone can recylce, reuse, among other simple things to help save our world, and the world in which the animals live, as well.  What a creative way to show children what they could do.

There are obviously many examples of how commercials provide us with more than just a sell job on the latest gadget. We can really learn from these as well, it is just a shame that they are not more frequent.

Posted on November 7th, 2011 in Media Violence News, Video Game Violence | Leave a comment

The massacre at Columbine High School, one of the most infamous moments in recent American history,  happened over a decade ago.  It’s impacts continued to be felt at schools all over the country, with the increased security measures that have been taken as a result of that, and other school shootings.

While the wounds have healed for many, a play based upon the tragedy at Columbine beginning today at Oklahoma State University will invariably bring some controversy, as it seeks to dive into the psyche and some factors leading to the shooting.  

Perhaps most interesting and potentially controversial about the play it’s take on the perpetrators, “Throughout the first act, “Freak” and “Loner” are bullied to the point of madness that leads them down their dark, infamous trail of killing.”  Potentially taking a sympathetic view of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold is a bold move, even in an artistic setting.  Especially as facts of the situation don’t support that either were bullied nor outsiders among their peers.

It will be of interest to us at to see if the influence of violent media will be at all explored within this narrative.  While that USA Today article linked above states that violent video games were not involved, and paints the pair as psychopathic would-be terrorists, it can’t be overlooked that the two were gamers who regularly played first person shooter games.  And, with brain research showing that regular exposure into these violent fantasy worlds can have adverse impact, it shouldn’t be completely left out of the story as America continues to grapple with school shooting incidents each with it’s own nuance to that of Columbine.

Posted on November 2nd, 2011 in Media Addiction, Parents Stories | Leave a comment

I realize that many of my blogs focus on the negative aspects of video games, and I still believe and stand by what I have said previously.  However, after making that clear, I also believe there are many instances where video games can be rewarding and in some cases life-changing. 

I know that there are many people who have lost weight and become healthier because they have played Wii fit.  For some people it is a cheap way to be able to take part in yoga or other excercise programs without the use of a gym, or a trainer.  For these people to be able to strengthen their bodies, improve flexibility and lose weight, what a great idea!  They have improved there entire body for the better, and that is a great reason to endorse video games. 

There have been articles written recently about kids helping cure diseases by playing video games.  It is a new push to create scientific discovery games that help change the future of science.  I think that is an awesome use of time, and for those people who were going to play video games anyways, it is great to be curing a disease along the way!

I know that for children video games are educational, and can sometimes help their verbal skills.  Games that teach children repetition, memory enhancement, general computer skills, improve typing techniques, aid in reading, mathematics, puzzle building and spelling…..what a difference this makes in the classroom!  (As a former teacher, there is no better way to learn certain skills than through repetition and pure memorization, and video games is a great resource for that.) I also love that video games are able to give certain kids a feeling of success which helps to build their self esteem when sometimes that is a hard thing to come by these days!

I have seen video games bring families together.  My family loves to bowl together on a rainy Sunday afternoon on the Wii, when it is too cold to do anything else in our neck of the woods.  It is fun to get up and play together without a lot of hassle, money or planning, and any skill level will do! So I think that anything that brings an entire family together in a joint activity is worth the money spent. 

I know that there are trying to come out with a game that teaches true to life Karate skills on a video game.  I think that some people think that if you can bowl a strike on the Wii that you can do it in person, but ask my daughter…that is not the case.  However, they are trying to come out with a step by step game that would make it almost as if you were enrolled in a true class.  If they could do that, think of the possibilities for children who don’t have the means to sign up for ballet or tap, or any martial arts.  It would be great to be able to learn new skills at your own pace.  That would be a great addition to the gaming world.

I think that if the gaming industry would stick to the games that bring about positive outcomes then not only would I be happy, but so would many other parents around the world!