In Brief

Research suggests that exposure to violent video games increases children's aggressive behavior and thoughts, said psychologist Elizabeth Carll, PhD, at a March Senate hearing on the regulation of violent games. Carll is the chair of the Interactive Media Committee of APA's Div. 46 (Media) and a former president of that division.

The hearing, chaired by Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), examined whether violent video games cause violent behavior, whether they are protected speech under the First Amendment, and whether the state or federal government can regulate their sale to minors.

Carll spoke to the first issue and discussed APA's 2005 Resolution on Violence in Video Games and Interactive Media. "Exposure to violent media increases feelings of hostility, thoughts about aggression and suspicions about the motives of others, and demonstrates violence as a method to deal with conflict," she said.

Video games, she added, are particularly potent because they make the player an active participant in the violence and reward players for violent behavior.

Carll also discussed recommendations for making the video-game rating system more informative; urging video- game makers to link violence with negative social consequences in their games; teaching children and caregivers to critically evaluate games; and communicating to lawmakers and the public the need for funding to support further research.

The research available now has not convinced the court system to restrict video games' sale to minors, said attorney Paul Smith, who has represented the game industry in court.

"Courts have rejected the argument that restrictions on violent video games can be justified as a means to prevent psychological harm to minors," he said, pointing out that, so far, concerns about protecting free expression have trumped psychological research on the effects of violent games.

--L. Winerman