An American Psychological Association (APA) task force says research confirms the link between playing violent video games and increases in aggressive behavior. But the group added that there isn’t enough evidence to tie the heightened aggression to criminal behavior or delinquency.
The task force’s August 2015 report was based on a review of scores of studies about the use of violent video games published during the past decade.
More than 90% of U.S. children play video games, a figure that spikes to 97% among adolescents age 12 to 17, the APA noted. The association’s Task Force on Violent Media found that more than 85% of video game content contains some form of violence.
“No single risk factor consistently leads a person to act aggressively or violently,” the group noted. “Rather, it is the accumulation of risk factors that tends to lead to aggressive or violent behavior.”
The report noted that differing definitions of aggression and violence employed by psychologists, criminologists, physicians and other practitioners have prompted disagreement over the effects of playing violent video games.
The task force’s chairman said additional research should focus on how video game use affects individuals who may be at higher risk of violent or aggressive behavior.
“For example, how do depression or delinquency interact with violent video game use?” Mark Appelbaum said in a statement on the APA website.
The task force’s findings prompted the APA to update its 2005 resolution on the topic. Among other measures, the new resolution calls on the Entertainment Software Rating Board to enhance its rating system to signal the types and levels of violence in video games, and encourages the APA to raise public awareness.
The resolution also says future research should explore differences in the impact of violent video games based on the age, gender and ethnicity of players, as well as on the specific themes of games and the types of targets of video violence.
In a statement reported by CBS News, the Entertainment Software Association called the task force report “slanted” and said the APA was biased against video games.
“Numerous medical professionals, researchers, and courts all debunk the fundamental thesis of their argument,” the statement noted.
According to an April 2015 report by the trade association, more than 150 million Americans play video games, and consumers spent about $22 billion on games, hardware and accessories in 2014. The average player is 35 years old.
Nearly 90% of parents said they find the Entertainment Software Rating Board’s ratings to be helpful when choosing games for their children, the association reported.