A new lab study finds that children who had recently been exposed to a violent video game were more likely to point and “shoot” a real (disabled) gun toward themselves or another child after discovering it in a cabinet, compared to kids who had played a nonviolent game.
For the study, children ages 8 to 12 were paired up and assigned to one of three versions of the popular video game Minecraft: violent with guns used to kill monsters; violent with swords used to kill monsters ; or nonviolent with no weapons or monsters.
After 20 minutes of game-play, the children played with other toys in separate room that included a cabinet with two disabled handguns.
A total of 220 children had found the gun while playing. The findings show that nearly 62 percent of the 76 children who played the video game with gun violence touched a handgun; about 57 percent of the 74 kids who played the game with sword violence touched a gun, and about 44 percent of 70 kids who played the nonviolent version touched a gun. The differences across these groups were not considered statistically significant.
However, kids who were exposed to violent versions of the video game were more likely to engage in the dangerous behavior of pulling the trigger at themselves or their partner than children exposed to the nonviolent version.
The findings held even after accounting for other mitigating factors (sex, age, trait aggressiveness, exposure to violent media, attitudes toward guns, presence of firearms in the home, interest in firearms and whether the child had taken a firearm safety course).
The other outcomes (time spent holding a gun and total trigger pulls) weren’t statistically significant.
Self-reported consumption of violent media was also a risk for total trigger pulls and trigger pulls at self or partner. The study is limited by the artificial setting of a university laboratory and Minecraft is not a very violent game with no blood and gore (researchers could not ethically expose children to a more violent, age-inappropriate game).
In conclusion, the authors encourage gun owners to secure their firearms and reduce children’s exposure to violent video games.
The findings are published in the journal JAMA Network Open.
Source: JAMA Network Open