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Kids who play video-games with guns more likely to play with real-life guns

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Children exposed to violent video-games are more likely to play with guns, according to US research. Three groups of children were allowed to play one of three versions of the game Minecraft; including guns, swords or no violence at all. The kids then were allowed to play in a room full of toys, which included cabinet containing disabled handguns. 67 per cent of the children who played the gun version touched the handguns, 57 per cent of children who played the swords version touched the guns, and 44 per cent of children who played the non-violent game touched the handguns. The team added that children who played the violent versions of the game were also more likely to pull the trigger of the handguns than those who played non-violent versions.

Journal/conference: JAMA Network Open

Link to research (DOI): 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.4319

Organisation/s: The Ohio State University, USA

Funder: None stated in paper

Media Release

From: JAMA

Do Violent Video Games Affect Kids’ Behavior With Real Guns?

Bottom Line: This randomized clinical trial in a university laboratory examined the effects of video games with weapons on children’s behavior when they found a real gun. Pairs of children (ages 8 to 12) were assigned to 1 of 3 versions of the popular video game Minecraft (one child played while the other watched): (1) violent with guns used to kill monsters, (2) violent with swords used to kill monsters  or (3) nonviolent with no weapons or monsters. After 20 minutes of gameplay, the children played with other toys in another room that included a cabinet with two disabled handguns. The study analysis included 220 children (average age 10) who found a gun while playing. Nearly 62 percent of the 76 children who played the video game with gun violence touched a handgun; about 57 percent of the 74 children who played the game with sword violence touched a gun, and about 44 percent of the 70 children who played the nonviolent version touched a gun, although the differences across groups weren’t significant. Children 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 violent versions with guns and swords were significant 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). The authors encourage gun owners to secure their firearms and reduce children’s exposure to violent video games.

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