Researchers say violent video games and television almost as bad as smoking

Posted by Humphrey Cheung

Ann Arbor (MI) – Researchers from the University of Michigan have completed a landmark study which compares violent video games and television footage against other health risks like smoking and AIDS.  L. Rowell Huesmann and Brad Bushman combed through previous research dating back to the 1960s and claim that violent content is almost as bad as smoking.

The research has been published as a supplemental to the December 2007 issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health and claims that children spend three hours a day watching television.  60% of the televised content contains some violence and researchers said 40% showed extreme violence.  On the video games side, the researchers say 83% of households have games with most containing violent content.

Huesmann said violent content increases the risk that children would behave aggressively by helping them mimic behavior and desensitize them to violent acts.  “Increased heart rates, perspiration, and self-reports of discomfort often accompany exposure to blood and gore. However, with repeated exposures, this negative emotional response habituates, and the child becomes “desensitized.” The child can then think about and plan proactive aggressive acts without experiencing negative affect,” Huesmann said.

At the end of the study, Huesmann shows a graph ranking teenage risk factors.  Violent media ranked second, just under smoking and lung cancer.

You can read the full text of the study here.