Violent TV, games pack a powerful public health threat

November 27, 2007

ANN ARBOR, Mich.---Watching media violence significantly increases the risk that a viewer or video game player will behave aggressively in both the short and long term, according to a University of Michigan study published today in a special issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health.

The study, by L. Rowell Huesmann, reviews more than half a century of research on the impact of exposure to violence in television, movies, video games and on the Internet.

"The research clearly shows that exposure to virtual violence increases the risk that both children and adults will behave aggressively," said Huesmann, the Amos N. Tversky Collegiate Professor of Communication Studies and Psychology, and a senior research scientist at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR).

In his article, Huesmann points out that U.S. children spend an average of three to four hours a day watching television. "More than 60 percent of television programs contain some violence," he said, "and about 40 percent of those contain heavy violence.

"Children are also spending an increasingly large amount of time playing video games, most of which contain violence. Video game units are now present in 83 percent of homes with children," he said.

According to research conducted by Huesmann and ISR colleague Brad Bushman, media violence significantly increases the risk that both children and adults will behave aggressively.

How significantly?

"Exposure to violent electronic media has a larger effect than all but one other well-known threat to public health. The only effect slightly larger than the effect of media violence on aggression is that of cigarette smoking on lung cancer," Huesmann said.

"Our lives are saturated by the mass media, and for better or worse, violent media are having a particularly detrimental effect on the well-being of children," he said.

"As with many other public health threats, not every child who is exposed to this threat will acquire the affliction of violent behavior. But that does not diminish the need to address the threat---as a society and as parents by trying to control children's exposure to violent media to the extent that we can."
-end-
The supplement was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Established in 1948, the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research (ISR) is among the world's oldest academic survey research organizations, and a world leader in the development and application of social science methodology. ISR conducts some of the most widely-cited studies in the nation, including the Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers, the American National Election Studies, the Monitoring the Future Study, the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, the Health and Retirement Study, and the National Survey of Black Americans. ISR researchers also collaborate with social scientists in more than 60 nations on the World Values Surveys and other projects, and the Institute has established formal ties with universities in Poland, China and South Africa. ISR is also home to the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR), the world's largest computerized social science data archive. Visit the ISR web site at www.isr.umich.edu for more information.

Contacts: Diane Swanbrow, (734) 647-9069, swanbrow@umich.edu
Jared Wadley, (734) 936-7819, jwadley@umich.edu

University of Michigan

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