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Psychologists Slam Gaming Violence

Violence in video games is bad for children's health. So says the American Psychological Association, which is calling on the industry to cut it back.

Research indicates exposure to violence in video games increases aggressive thoughts, aggressive behavior and angry feelings among youth, the association said in a statement issued Wednesday. It also said this exposure reduces helpful behavior and increases physiological arousal in children and adolescents.

The statement said that studies of video games and interactive media show the perpetrators of violence go unpunished 73 percent of the time.

"Showing violent acts without consequences teaches youth that violence is an effective means of resolving conflict. Whereas, seeing pain and suffering as a consequence can inhibit aggressive behavior," psychologist Elizabeth Carll, co-chair of the association's Committee on Violence in Video Games and Interactive Media, said in a statement.

Douglas Lowenstein, president of the Entertainment Software Association, the trade group that represents the U.S. computer and video game industry, charged the American Psychological Association (APA) with disregarding credible research and analysis that challenge claims that video games cause aggression or crime.

"This resolution is hardly surprising since the APA has made it clear over a long period of time that it believes violent video games are harmful and thus justify enactment of unconstitutional restrictions on First Amendment freedoms," Lowenstein said in a statement.

Backlash against the video game industry has caught steam lately with politicians making public condemnations. In July, Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed a law meant to keep adult video games away from minors, although similar measures in other states have been rejected by the courts.

The law, which takes effect Jan. 1, bars stores from selling or renting extremely violent or sexual games to minors. Violators could be fined $1,000.

The video industry promptly filed a suit to block the new law in Illinois.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-NY, recently asked the Federal Trade Commission to increase their policing of game content after sexually explicit scenes were found embedded in the game "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas."

In an , Clinton said through a spokesman that she was developing legislation to make the ratings systems of video games better enforced. Clinton justified her stance, saying, "I am emphasizing that ratings should have meaning and they should be enforced. A 7-year-old should not be able to walk into Wal-mart and buy Grand Theft Auto."

Clinton added, "There have been four decades of research on the effect of media violence on our kids and it all points to the same conclusion -- media violence leads to more aggression, anti-social behavior and it desensitizes kids to violence.

The APA recommendations included:

  • Teach media literacy to children so they will have the ability to critically evaluate interactive media.
  • Encourage the entertainment industry to link violent behaviors with negative social consequences.
  • Develop and disseminate a rating system that accurately reflects the content of the video games and interactive media.