Steve Johnson, author of Everything Bad is Good for You, says violent video games are good for children. He thinks that video games such as Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas may "function as a kind of safety valve—they let kids who would otherwise be doing violent things for the thrill of it, get out those kind of feelings sitting at home at a screen." Says Johnson: "This may have a deterrent effect on violence."

But the American Psychological Association thinks otherwise. Time spent playing violent video games "increases aggressive thoughts, aggressive behavior, and angry feelings among youth." Less than a week before the Ottawa Citizen reported Johnson's remarks, the professional society for psychologists acted on 20 years of research into the effects of violent video games. After a "special committee" reviewed more than 70 studies, the organization adopted a resolution calling for the "reduction of violence in interactive media used by children and adolescents."

APA scholars cited a study of eighth- and ninth-grade teachers. The teachers said that the students who spent time playing violent video games were more hostile than other children and more likely to argue with authority figures and fellow students. And according to another study of 600 eighth- and ninth-graders, students not normally prone to aggression are nearly 10 times as likely to get into a fight after playing a violent video game.

Good teachers know three things that contribute to effective learning: active participation, rehearsing behavioral sequences rather than discrete acts, and repetition, repetition, repetition. Video games employ all three. In addition, the vast majority of the gaming scenarios (like the random killing of prostitutes) fail to show ...

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October 2005

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