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Children who Play Violent Video Games More Likely to Handle Gun and Pull Trigger: Study

How many times children pulled the trigger depended on the video game they watched

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FILE - Gamers play Minecraft at the Paris Games Week (PGW), a trade fair for video games in Paris, France. VOA

Children who either played or watched video games that included gun violence were more likely afterward to handle a gun and pull the trigger, a new study finds.

More than 200 children were randomly assigned to play either a non-violent video game or a game with firearm violence. Soon after, more than 60% of kids who played the violent game touched a gun, compared to about 44% of those who played a non-violent game, researchers report in JAMA Network Open.

The lessons from the new findings are that: “gun owners should secure their guns,” and “parents should protect their children from violent media, including video games,” said study coauthor Brad Bushman, a professor of communication at The Ohio State University.

“Each day in the United States, nearly 50 children and teenagers are shot with a firearm, often as a result of a child finding one loaded and unsecured,” Bushman and his coauthor Justin Chang, a former graduate student at Ohio State, wrote. “Among firearm-owning households with children, approximately 20% keep at least one firearm loaded and unsecured.”

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Out of the 242 children recruited, 220 eventually found the guns and those kids were included in the study. Pixabay

Bushman and Chang recruited 242 kids, ages 8 to 12, to look at the impact of violent video games. The children were partnered up and then randomly assigned to one of three groups: a version of Minecraft that included violence with guns, a version that included violence with swords and a non-violent version. No matter which game a pair of children was assigned to, one would play the game and the other would watch.

After playing the games for 20 minutes, the children were moved to another room that contained toys for them to play with as well as two disabled guns with trigger counters that had been tucked away in a cabinet. Out of the 242 children recruited, 220 eventually found the guns and those kids were included in the study.

Among the 76 children who played video games that included guns, 61.8% handled the weapon, as compared 56.8% of the 74 who played a game including sword violence and 44.3% of the 70 who played a non-violent game. Children who played violent video games were also more likely to pull the trigger, researchers found. How many times children pulled the trigger depended on the video game they watched.

It was a median of “10.1 times if they played the version of Minecraft where the monsters could be killed with guns, 3.6 times if they played the version of Minecraft where the monsters could be killed with swords and 3.0 times if they played the version of Minecraft without weapons and monsters,” Bushman said in an email.

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Children who played violent video games were also more likely to pull the trigger, researchers found. Pixabay

“The more important outcome, though, is pulling the trigger of a gun while pointing that gun at oneself or one’s partner [children were tested in pairs],” Bushman said. There, the median was 3.4 times for the game with gun violence, 1.5 times for the game with swords and 0.2 times for non-violent games.

The new study “is the most rigorous design that can be conducted,” said Cassandra Crifasi, deputy director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research.

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While “it’s important to recognize certain types of entertainment can be violent, when it comes to firearms, the solution is to store guns safely so that children can’t gain access,” Crifasi said. “That doesn’t mean children won’t engage in other violent play. But we can cut off guns as a source of potential harm.” Dr. Shari Platt agreed that the best way to protect kids is proper gun storage.

“The study is interesting and I think they are touching on some very real fears parents have around graphically violent video games,” said Platt, chief of pediatric medicine at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and an associate professor of clinical emergency medicine. But in the end, “education and prevention are always the answers.” (VOA)

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Study: Video Games Not Connected to Real World Violence

More than 23,000 tweets had used the hashtag #VideogamesAreNotToBlame

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FILE - Gamers play Minecraft at the Paris Games Week (PGW), a trade fair for video games in Paris, France. VOA

Many young people reacting to the most recent mass shootings in the U.S. are rejecting the idea that violent video games motivate shooters. And research backs them up.

One Twitter user, Scott@Serptentine_Back described his interests as well as the fact he’d been bullied in school, but ended with “NEVER HAVE I ONCE THOUGHT OF SHOOTING INNOCENT PEOPLE.”

“Recent mass shootings have prompted the idea among some members of the public that exposure to violent video games can have a pronounced effect on individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD),” wrote University of Missouri professor Christopher R. Engelhardt. “Empirical evidence for or against this claim has been missing, however.”

More than 23,000 tweets had used the hashtag #VideogamesAreNotToBlame by late Monday afternoon, pushing back on some politicians’ assertions that violent video games influenced young, male shooters.

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FILE – Gamers play Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 at a community reveal event in Hawthorne, California, May 17, 2018. VOA

“I’ve always felt that it’s a problem for future generations and others,” Representative Kevin McCarthy said on Fox News. “We’ve watched from studies, shown before, what it does to individuals, and you look at these photos of how it took place, you can see the actions within video games and others.”

Authors of a new study funded by the National Institute of Justice, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Justice, say four factors motivate shooters:
* Early childhood trauma and exposure to violence at a young age, such as parental suicide, physical or sexual abuse, neglect, domestic violence and/or severe bullying;
* A specific grievance, like romantic rejection or job loss;
* Copy cats;
*Owning a weapon or getting one from a family member. But video games? Not so much, experts say.

“In the wake of many mass shootings, unfortunately, many people — including government officials — try to blame violent video games or other forms of violent media,” Englehardt wrote in an email. “However, evidence linking violent media to mass shootings is simply nonexistent. The are more important factors to consider, such as exposure to family violence and mental health issues.”

One Twitter user, AJ Szymanowski @TheRealSzymaa, shared under the hashtag VideogamesAreNotToBlame: “Video games are just there latest social Boogeyman for those who are unwilling to actually accept the blame.”

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Many young people reacting to the most recent mass shootings in the U.S. are rejecting the idea that violent video games motivate shooters. Wikimedia Commons

“There was no evidence for a critical tipping point relating violent game engagement to aggressive behaviour,” wrote Andrew K. Przybylski and Netta Weinstein, professors at the University of Oxford and Cardiff University, respectively, in a journal of the Royal Society Open Science in the U.K.

On social media, some pointed to the proliferation of guns and gun violence as part of the legacy of baby boomers — those people born before 1964. “Hey Boomers, video games are not to blame for the shooting. It’s your own mess and you should do something about your horrible guns policy instead of banning video games. #VideogamesAreNotToBlame,” Alt King Gio, @Altgio8, tweeted.

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“The Boomer crowd don’t want to take the blame for their actions because they failed. Excuse me but didn’t your parents scapegoat music for their mistakes or something before? The generational scapegoat curse lingers! #VideogamesAreNotToBlame,” tweeted ArkE, @arkenova89.

According to polling company Gallup, gun ownership in the U.S. peaked in 1994, when then-President Bill Clinton signed the Assault Weapons Ban into law, with 51 percent of homeowners reporting owning a gun. That percentage has varied, with between 34 percent and 43 percent of homeowners owning a gun, between 1994 and 2018, respectively. (VOA)