Violent video games linked to depression

depressed gamer

For those of you who are keeping score, video games aren’t actually bad for kids and can make you quite smart, except when they turn you into a criminal or an aggressive, gun-toting crazy person.

It’s time to throw another log on the fire – new research published in the Cyberpsychology, Behaviour, and Social Networking journal shows that video games can make kids depressed.

This time, though, the study in question is a little bit more specific, and says only violent video games, will do the trick. So there’s that.

The study looked at over 5,000 kids aged around 11 years old – boys and girls – and assessed them based on low time (less than 2 hours) and high time (more than 2 hours) of daily video game play over 12 months.

The researchers then investigated the relation between violent games and the symptoms of depression: lack of pleasure, lack of interest in activities, concentration difficulties, low energy, low self-worth, and suicidal ideation.

Violent games were defined as titles that showed physical fighting, hurting, shooting, or killing, and were split into low-violence and high-violence categories.

The method in collecting data? Asking kids and their parents to punch responses to relevant questions into a computer.

The results? Pretty much what you’d expect:

“Overall, our findings indicate that playing violent video games for a substantial amount of time each day over an extended period is significantly associated with depression in preadolescent youth.”

Little Timmy was depressed because his mom made him go outside - and the graphics were terrible

Little Timmy was depressed because his mom made him go outside – and the graphics were terrible

The researchers noted that, while the associations were small, they were similar to findings from studies into the link between violent games and aggression.

Kids who played high violence games for long periods exhibited the highest level of depression, followed by high time, low violence players.

Low time, high violence players were only slightly more depressed than the reference group of low time, low violence players.

Interestingly, that would show that it has more to do with duration of play time, than content, no?

Boys were found to be most depressed when playing violent video games, on levels consistent with the findings above.

Going against the grain, though, girls who played low violence games for a long duration showed the most depressive symptoms.

The link between violence and depression

So does this mean violent video games will make kids depressed? Or is it that depressed kids tend to play violent video games?

The researchers conceded that “reverse causality” was possible – that depressed kids may be drawn to violent games – but the research data showed that this was unlikely.

The study argued that if higher depression individuals reflected preferences for violent video games, kids who played violent games for shorter periods of time should reflect similar depressive symptoms as kids who played for longer periods of time.

This wasn’t the case though – high violence, high time groups still showed the greatest level of depression, and low time, high violence groups were actually quite fine.

I think by now we know that violent video games have an impact on our psyche – but so does sitting in traffic, or watching the evening news.

Are these studies telling us anything we don’t know already? Or are they just warning us to keep violent content away from kids? Don’t we already have systems in place to prevent that already?

Won’t anybody think of the children?

Share your thoughts in the comments and forum.

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Violent video games linked to depression

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