Do video games really affect the way children behave? The debate has been going on for years, but a new study finds when it comes to gun behavior, video games do have a significant impact.

Violent Video Games And Gun Behavior

The question whether video games affect people is a sensitive one, especially when it comes to the possible relationship between violent video games and gun behavior. Unfortunately, it is a topic that must be discussed especially since among the resource-rich countries, the United States actually has the highest child mortality rate resulting from unintentional firearm use.

To try and see whether exposure to violent video games result in children engaging in dangerous behavior around firearms, a team of researchers conducted an experiment. In the randomized trial, 220 children between the ages of 8 and 12 were tasked to play a video game with either gun violence, sword violence, or no violence. They all played the same game, except for the differences in violence.

Play Experiment

After 20 minutes, the children were paired and tasked to play in a room where there were toys, games, as well as two unloaded guns hidden inside a cabinet in the play room. This was done to simulate the scenario of a gun being hidden inside the home.

The children were being recorded the entire duration of the play session, and researchers observed that those who played the violent versions of the video game were more likely to touch the real gun and handle it longer compared to those who played the non-violent version of the game. They were also more likely to pull the trigger more times, whether the gun was pointed at themselves or at their partner.

In addition, researchers also note that reported habitual exposure to violent media was also a risk factor for the dangerous behavior around firearms.

Dangerous Behavior Around Firearms

In sum, the researchers concluded that exposure to such violent video games actually increases the likelihood of children’s dangerous behavior around real firearms. However, Illinois State University Professor Joe Hilgard who studies aggressive behavior and video games says that the relationship between violence and guns as found in the study is not quite strong. That said, he does agree that firearms must be less accessible to children.

The study is published in JAMA Network.

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