Playing violent video games actually correlates with declines, and not increases, in youth violence, according to a study.
Researcher Christopher Ferguson of Stetson University published his findings in the Journal of Communication.
His work is the first to suggest movie violence and video game violence consumption probably are increasing over time but that there is little evidence this has caused a problem for society.
He conducted two studies which looked at whether the incidence of violence in media correlates with actual violence rates in society.
The first study looked at movie violence and homicide rates between 1920 and 2005.
The second study looked at video game violence consumption and its relationship to youth violence rates from 1996-2011.
He found that consumption of media violence is not predictive of increased violence rates in society.
For the first study, independent raters evaluated the frequency and graphicness of violence in popular movies from 1920-2005.
These were correlated to homicide rates for the same years. Overall, movie violence and homicide rates were not correlated.
However, during the mid-20th century, movie violence and homicide rates did appear to correlate slightly which may have led some to believe a larger trend was at play.
That correlation reversed after 1990 so that movie violence became correlated with fewer homicides. Prior to the 1940s, movie violence was similarly related to fewer homicides.
In the study on video game violence, the Entertainment Software Ratings Board ratings were used to estimate the violent content of the most popular video games for the years 1996-2011.
These estimates of video game violence consumption were correlated against federal data on youth violence rates during the same years.
Violent video game consumption was strongly correlated with declines in youth violence.
However, it was concluded that the correlation is most likely due to chance and does not indicate video games caused the decline in youth violence.
Previous studies have focused on laboratory experiments and aggression as a response to movie and video game violence but this does not match well with real-life exposure.
Some scholars have argued that movies are becoming more violent, but none have examined whether this phenomenon is a concern for society.
“Society has a limited amount of resources and attention to devote to the problem of reducing crime,” Ferguson said.
“There is a risk that identifying the wrong problem, such as media violence, may distract society from more pressing concerns such as poverty, education and vocational disparities and mental health.
“This research may help society focus on issues that really matter and avoid devoting unnecessary resources to the pursuit of moral agendas with little practical value.”
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