Ask Dr. Rachel: No direct correlation between violent video game play and violent crime

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Will video games will make you lazy? Do you have any suggestions for what kinds of games would be great to play together with my young family? Should I let my young child watch me play games that are rated M for Mature?

Every month, our in-house scientific expert, Dr. Rachel Kowert, will address your questions about video games, video game effects and media studies, such as the ones above in her new regular column, “Ask Dr. Rachel.”

Dear Dr. Rachel, I feel like there are a lot of misperceptions of video games and gamers out there. What would you say are the top three things that people think are true about video games and gamers but the research doesn’t support? —Interested Gamer from Indiana

Dear Interested Gamer,

There is definitely a lot of misinformation about video games (and the gamers who love them) out there. For example, I have found that there is still a strong consensus that there is a direct relationship between violent video game play and violent crime, that playing a lot of video games is in and of itself indicative of a video game addiction and that friends made in online games are not ‘socially valuable’, at least as compared to offline friends. All three of these claims are not grounded in the research!

Research has not found any direct relationships between violent video game play and violent crime (nor does it desensitize us to real-world violence), video game addiction is a multifaceted concept that includes players’ having detrimental effects in many aspects of their lives due to their video game playing (not just playing long hours), and friends made online have been found to be as valuable than traditional “offline” friends. In fact, online games have been proposed as potential social tools to for socially anxious, depressed and socially isolated individuals.

Dear Dr. Rachel, My son plays a lot of video games, mostly First Person Shooters like Call of Duty and Halo. I am concerned about the effect it may be having on his attention deficit disorder because he often has difficulties paying attention (especially in school) and I heard or read somewhere that playing too many video games can exacerbate the symptoms of ADD/ADHD. Is there any truth to these claims? —Concerned Parent from Colorado

Dear Concerned Parent,

This is a common concern among parents, although I am not entirely sure how it has become so widespread as there is no scientific evidence to support the idea that playing video games worsens inattention or any other symptoms of ADD/ADHD. The links between video games and ADD/ADHD may derive from the fact that because video games are often fast-paced, playing them may aggravate attention problems, especially those associated with ADD/ADHD. However, contrary to these claims, video games have actually emerged as promising tools to help improve attention and reduce impulsivity for individuals who show symptoms of ADD/ADHD. That said, more research is needed before video games can be recommended as part of a treatment plan.

Do you have a question you would like to ask Dr. Rachel? Send your question to via twitter to @linacaruso using the hashtag #AskDrRachel and your question could be featured in next month’s column!

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