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Monday, 15 January, 2001, 11:35 GMT
Gaming cut 'reduces child aggression'
Video games have been linked to aggression in children
Video games have been linked to aggression in children
The less children play video games, or watch television, the less aggressive they become, suggests a scientific study.

The American research looked at the effects of reducing the amount of computer games played, or television watched by third and fourth graders - who are aged approximately eight or nine.


How do they learn? It's not by magic, it's by observing the world around them

Dr Sarah Scott
Other children assessed how violent their peers were, and it was judged that the more television and games the children had seen, the more aggressive they were.

Its authors say their findings support the theory that television, and, more recently, games, have a direct influence on such behaviour.

They suggest there are potential benefits in reducing the amount children are allowed.

Comparison

Researchers from Stanford University selected two schools for the study, published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

At one, 105 children were given an electronic television time manager, and lessons in how to reduce the amount of time they spent watching television or playing video games was included in the curriculum for a six month period.

At another school, 120 children were given no measures to help cut the amount of television and video watched.

The children were asked to assess their classmates' aggression ratings before and after the study.

Parents were also asked for their views, and researchers looked at verbal and physical aggression in the playground.

They found "statistically significant" reductions in peer ratings of aggression, and verbal aggression in children who had limited their exposure to television, video and video games.

There was less difference in parents' perceptions - and children's view of the world as a "mean and scary place", but researchers say what difference there was favoured the intervention group.

They said: "Even small and medium-sized effects may produce large benefits when applied to the population in a public health intervention.

"The effects of this intervention occurred throughout the entire sample, although reductions in aggressive behaviour were generally larger among children who were more aggressive at the beginning of the study."

'Aggressive' reactions

Dr Sarah Scott, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at The Maudsley Hospital, London, said the link between children watching aggressive behaviour and the carrying it out had been established 20 to 30 years ago.

"How do they learn? It's not by magic, it's by observing the world around them."

She said watching aggressive behaviour coloured a child's reactions.

"Then they learn that if people are angry, they do aggressive things."

Dr Scott pointed to cartoons like Tom and Jerry, and said children had always been exposed to violence.

"That was a speaking cat and a speaking mouse. It was fantasy, and that's much harder to incorporate into our daily lives.

"And you could explain it - it's a cartoon, it's not real.

"But when you see 'a real person', or Playstation character doing aggressive things, that's more realistic."

Dr Scott said the improvements in the behaviour of the children in the American study could have developed because they were playing more and developing social skills from interacting with their peers.

This, she said, would mean they were less likely to behave aggressively towards other children, because they had better interactive skills.

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