Health Watch -- Violent Video Games

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Does video-game violence spill over into real life?

As popular video games played by children and teenagers become more violent, the debate about the real-world impact of these games increases. In Sweden, researchers recently examined the impact of games in a television documentary.

They found that people who identify with violent video-game heroes may become more violent or aggressive as the line between fantasy and reality blurs. Doctors agree that more research needs to be done on the subject to verify the actual impact of video games on behavior.

Doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say violent video games send messages that could lead to destructive behavior. Dr. Joel Steinberg, a UT Southwestern pediatrician, says that games teach solutions to problems that aren't appropriate for the real world. For example, in a game you may blow up a roadblock that you encounter, but you can't do that in real life.

Dr. Pete Stavinoha, a UT Southwestern child psychiatrist, says the easy reset of video games also keeps kids from learning how to deal with frustration. Playing with a real-world toy like a set of blocks teaches a child about starting over when something falls down. It's not like hitting the reset button on a game when things aren't going well.

Aside from the psychological impact of video games, experts also agree that spending too much time playing video games and not enough time being active has contributed to childhood and teen obesity rates.

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March 2004

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