Trump Is Concerned About Violent Video Games, But Do They Cause Violence?
Violent video games and movies have been at the centre of debate around tragic acts for decades. While there have been some incidents where shooters claim to be actively inspired by something like Natural Born Killers or Grand Theft Auto, it's hard to discern whether these mediums cause people to commit atrocities on a broad spectrum.
Following the Parkland school shooting, which claimed 17 lives, President Donald Trump said: "I'm hearing more and more people saying the level of violence on video games is really shaping young people's thoughts.
"And then you go the further step, and that's the movies. You see these movies -- they're so violent, and yet a kid is able to see the movie if sex isn't involved."
There have been a few studies that link violent video games with violent behaviour, but Western Michigan University associate professor of sociology Whitney DeCamp reckons that research doesn't stack up.
In his 2015 paper, he wrote: "There is growing evidence supporting an empirical link between violent video game playing and violent behaviour.
"This evidence, however, is often correlational in nature, and the presence of a correlation does not necessarily equate to that of a causal link."
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"Although causality is adequately proven through the use of random assignment in these studies, the applicability to violent behaviour is not certain."
That's the crux of the criticism of a lot of studies or research. Just because you found a link between A and B, doesn't necessarily mean that A causes B or vise versa. There's even a website called Spurious Correlations, which shows there are figures which align which each other, but no one in a million years would believe they are related.
Or are they?
Funnily enough, there have been figures that show crime rates tend to drop when shooting game sales are at their highest.
Stetson University associate professor and co-chairman of the Department of Psychology Christopher Ferguson reckons that's because people are genuinely too busy playing games to commit crimes.
"Basically, by keeping young males busy with things they like you keep them off the streets and out of trouble."
That theory is backed up by three other academics, Benjamin Engelstätter, Scott Cunningham and Michael Ward. In their collective report, Understanding the Effects of Violent Video Games on Violent Crime, they argue it's incredibly difficult to examine the real-world effects of video gameplay.
"We argue that since laboratory experiments have not examined the time use effects of video games," they said, "which incapacitate violent activity by drawing individual gamers into extended gameplay, laboratory studies may be poor predictors of the net effects of violent video games in society."
It's interesting that President Trump has now blamed the Florida shooter's mental health, video games, the armed Florida officer who didn't run into the school...and not the fact that the suspect was able to access an AR-15 at the age of 19.
Featured Image Credit: PA