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Posted on Tue, Jun 15, 2010 : 1:15 p.m.

Study: Violent video games don't harm most kids

By Jen Eyer

If you worry, like I do, about the effects of violent video games on kids, you might find this new study from Texas A&M International University reassuring.

From a news release on the American Psychological Association's website:

Playing violent video games can make some adolescents more hostile, particularly those who are less agreeable, less conscientious and easily angered. But for others, it may offer opportunities to learn new skills and improve social networking.

... The teenagers who were highly neurotic, less agreeable and less conscientious tended to be most adversely affected by violent video games, whereas participants who did not possess these personality characteristics were either unaffected or only slightly negatively affected by violent video games.

“Violent video games are like peanut butter,” said [Christopher J. Ferguson, Ph.D., of Texas A&M International University]. “They are harmless for the vast majority of kids but are harmful to a small minority with pre-existing personality or mental health problems."

In our house, we're just starting to deal with the question of violent video games. For Christmas we gave our kids the Lego Star Wars game for the Wii. It was my husband's idea; he and I have slightly different views on video games.

The three of them enjoyed it from the start, and it quickly became the favorite game over break and into January. Even I got over my misgivings about the violence because, well, they're just Lego people, right?

All was well, until I got this note in a weekly update from Wes' preschool teacher:

"We have noticed some weapon play that we have had to have talks about because [the preschool] doesn’t allow weapon play, so we have talked about that and just remind him and other boys saying “no weapons at [the preschool].” Have you seen any of this kind of play or any words coming out at home?

Had I noticed this type of play at home? Um, yeah. In fact, I'd participated in it. I had found something really satisfying about running around the house with him, pretending to be Star Wars characters and shooting things, in the afternoons after getting home from work.

Was that wrong? Oops.

So Lego Star Wars went on hiatus. And the weapon play mostly stopped.

Fast-forward to last week, when Lego Star Wars was brought back out as a reward for Wes doing something that we really, really wanted him to do. (You can guess what that was.)

All was well again, until last night when I was putting Wes to bed. As is often the case, the truth comes out at bedtime.

"Maddie told on me today," Wes said. "She told my teacher."

"What did she tell your teacher?" I asked.

"That I had a shooter."

After he fell asleep, I disconnected the Wii. We're going to take a long break, under the guise of it not working. And when it "starts working" again, Lego Star Wars will be missing.

Jen Eyer is on the Community Team at She leads the Parenting and Pets sections, and writes feature stories, blog posts and opinion pieces. She can be reached at 734-623-2577 or


sandy schopbach

Wed, Jun 16, 2010 : 5:59 a.m.

I agree with Bridget that you need to give more particulars about the study so that it's seriousness and dependability can be determined by readers. Besides, what do words such as "agreeability" mean? That kids agree to eat their veggies? That they can be easily handled? Violence breeds violence. There's enough of it around children all the time, if only when their parents watch the news. I never bought my children - or now my grandchild - toy guns or even allowed them in the house. Never took them to violent movies (although Disney can get quite heavy sometimes; witness Bambi). Then they found a piece of wood, a crooked stick, and used it as a gun. But at least I didn't condone or promote it. Kids will put violence into their lives all alone. We don't need to help them. And if the people at that University in Texas think it's not a problem, then that would explain perhaps why Texas has the most crime involving guns in the nation, and the most people on death row for murder and other such violent crimes.

Bridget Bly

Tue, Jun 15, 2010 : 4:24 p.m.

Wow. That is not at all the conclusion I would draw from that study. From what I can tell, the researcher had children play one video game, then measured their hostility. After one video game, he was able to detect a significant difference between kids who played the violent vs. non-violent games. For some kids, there was a big difference, for others a small difference, and for others, no difference. That is one sitting. No attempt to try to measure the cumulative effect of playing hours at a time, many days a week. There is *nothing* in this study that should assure one that violent video games "don't harm most kids". All it says is that VVGs harm some kids more than others immediately after they play. Please,, you have to look at the details of the studies you report. It is simply not responsible reporting to write that headline and that article on the basis of that one (shoddy) study.