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Video Games can Encourage Risky Behaviors

Update Date: Aug 04, 2014 03:37 PM EDT
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Video games are widely popular among young children and teenagers. Since so many people play these games, several studies have examined the effects that certain types of video games can have on the players. In a new study, researchers from Dartmouth University focused on "mature-rated, risk-glorifying video games" and found that these video games can be linked to alcohol use, smoking cigarettes, delinquency and risky sexual behaviors.

"Up to now, studies of video games have focused primarily on their effects on aggression and violent behaviors," stated Professor James Sargent, a pediatrician and co-author reported in the press release. "This study is important because it is the first to suggest that possible effects of violent video games go well beyond violence to apply to substance use, risky driving and risk-taking sexual behavior. "

For this study, the team examined more than 5,000 teenagers from the United States. The teenagers were a part of a nationwide study that interviewed the participants over the span of four years. The interview focused on three risk-glorifying video games, which were Grand Theft Auto, Manhunt and Spiderman, and other types of mature-rated video games. Certain games were character-based where the protagonists were anti-social.

The team found that both boys and girls who played these types of games were more likely to partake in high-risk behaviors. The effects were the greatest for people who played the most hours and people who played games with anti-social protagonists as the main character.

"With respect to playing deviant video game characters, we feel it best to follow the admonition of Kurt Vonnegut in Mother Night: 'We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be,'" stated Professor Jay Hull, the studies' lead author and chair of Dartmouth's Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences.

The study was published in the American Psychological Association's (APA) Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

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