Do Violent Video Games Have Negative Effects on Teenagers?

Have a question about science, health, fitness, or diet? Get cited, evidence-based insights with Consensus.

Try for free
Written by Consensus
33 min read

Do violent video games have negative effects on teenagers?

Check out this answer from Consensus:

The evidence on the negative effects of violent video games on teenagers is mixed. While there is some support for the idea that these games can increase aggression and stress, particularly in the short term, the overall effects are often minimal. Long-term studies suggest that the negative impacts may not be as significant as previously thought. Future research should continue to address methodological issues and explore the nuanced ways in which violent video games may affect different aspects of teenagers’ lives.

The debate over whether violent video games have negative effects on teenagers has been ongoing for years. Researchers, policymakers, and the general public have all weighed in on the potential impacts of these games on youth behavior and mental health. This article aims to synthesize findings from multiple research studies to provide a comprehensive overview of the effects of violent video games on teenagers.

Aggression and Hostility

Several studies have investigated the link between violent video games and aggressive behavior in teenagers. A meta-analytic review found that violent video games do increase aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition, and aggressive affect in both children and young adults. This is supported by another study which documented that adolescents who are exposed to greater amounts of video game violence tend to be more hostile and are more likely to get into physical fights. However, it is important to note that the effects observed are often minimal. For instance, a meta-analysis focusing on child and adolescent samples found that the influence of violent video games on increased aggression was minimal (r = .06).

Mental Health and Stress

The impact of violent video games on mental health has also been a subject of research. One study found that while violent video games did not increase hostility in teens, they did increase stress levels, particularly in girls. Another study highlighted that ongoing exposure to violent video games was associated with higher interpersonal-affective deficits and disinhibition in young adults, suggesting potential adverse effects on social relationships.

Prosocial Behavior and Academic Performance

The effects of violent video games extend beyond aggression and mental health. Research indicates that playing violent video games can decrease prosocial behavior. Additionally, there is evidence to suggest that exposure to violent video games is linked to poorer school performance. Adolescents who play violent video games frequently reported getting into more arguments with teachers and performing poorly in school. However, the overall impact on academic performance appears to be minimal (r = -0.01).

Methodological Considerations

It is crucial to consider the methodological limitations of the studies in this field. Many studies have been criticized for their reliance on short-term measures and experimental designs that may not accurately reflect real-world scenarios. Moreover, issues such as publication bias and researchers’ degrees of freedom continue to be prevalent, potentially skewing the results.

Long-Term Effects

The long-term effects of violent video games are less clear. A longitudinal intervention study found no significant changes in aggression, prosocial behavior, or mental health after two months of daily gameplay of a violent video game compared to a non-violent game or no game at all. This suggests that the frequently debated negative effects of violent video games may not be as pronounced as often claimed.



Do violent video games have negative effects on teenagers?

Whitney DeCamp has answered Extremely Unlikely

An expert from Western Michigan University in Media, Criminology, Sociology, Statistics

The question of whether there are “negative effects” is quite broad. One of the most common concerns is whether violent video games cause real-life violent behavior. In short, they do not.

Research has demonstrated that correlations between playing violent video games and violent behavior are spurious, meaning that playing violent video games does not cause violent behavior. One of the largest reasons for this is the gender divide. Boys are more likely to play violent video games and play them more often, and boys are also more likely to engage in violence regardless of whether they play video games. Additionally, an underlying interest in violence may lead certain youth towards seeking out violent media and engaging in violent behavior. Ultimately, the typically non-significant and trivial effects from violent game play simply do not compare to the established causes of violence, such as exposure to violence in the real world and home/family environments.

More than one meta-analysis has supported the conclusion that violent games are not related to violent behavior. Additionally, other statistics support that conclusion as well, such as the finding that those involved in shootings are less likely to be playing violent games compared to others in their age cohorts. Over 90% of teenage boys play violent video games. Despite this, the United States is experiencing record lows for violent crime rates.

Some researchers, however, argue that violent video games do lead to an increase in “aggression” in those who play the games. There are some studies that have found short-term rises in aggression after playing violent games. However, there are a number of limitations to these studies that must be considered. First, these are short-term laboratory studies and do not necessarily prove any long-term effects. Second, it is unclear whether any observed effects are the result of seeing violence, or the intensity/action of the activity. If, for example, we asked a group of teenage boys to split into teams and play a game of basketball, we might also expect a short-term rise in aggression due to the competitive nature of the game. However, it would be absurd to conclude from that evidence that playing basketball increases propensity towards violence. Finally, aggression and violence are not interchangeable terms. Aggression can include things like being louder, or engaging in more aggressive game-play in a board game, being more willing to use hot sauce as a punishment against other players in games, etc. We would be on shaky ground to generalize findings related to these types of aggression to actual violent behavior.

Both the American Psychological Association (APA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have released statements suggesting that there is consensus on violent video games as a cause of aggression. These statements, however, are based on a handful of cherry-picked studies. For example, the references in the AAP statement that relate to video games only include articles from a small group of collaborators with one or both of two co-authors on each of the consulted studies. None of the many studies with evidence against relationships between violent video games and aggression were cited/used. Prior to these statements being made, 230 scholars signed a letter to the APA asking that such a statement not be made because of the large body of evidence against their conclusion. A later study examined communications related to an earlier statement by the APA and found evidence suggesting that the motivations for making these problematic statements included the desire for the APA to “‘sell’ itself as a solution to the perceived violent video game problem.” In other words, science was not necessarily the guiding influence on such statements.

In terms of measuring how much support there is for a connection, fewer than half (39.5%) of clinicians and clinical researchers agree with the idea that violent video games’ effects on real-life violence is a problem. And only 15.3% agree that violent video games contribute to real-life violence. In brief, there is no consensus on this issue, though the majority of researchers do not support the existence of a link between video games and violence.

There is, of course, the possibility of long-term negative effects other than violence and aggression. For example, a desensitization effect, in which youth playing violent video games become less “sensitive” to seeing violence occurs. However, it must be noted that this does not mean that they are more likely to support violence, or even be less likely to oppose it. Being less shocked by seeing something does not necessarily mean that the person is less opposed to it. People who witness violence in their occupations (e.g., policing, emergency medical care, military), for example, may also become less sensitive to seeing violence, yet remain opposed to violence nonetheless.

It should also be noted that there are potentially positive effects from playing video games. Youth who play more video games, for example, tend to be more comfortable with technology and more likely to develop an interest in computer science. Other benefits may include educational effects and better heath and social skills. Many contemporary video games are social experiences, and may also contribute to developing friendship networks as well.

Overall, research finds more support for video games being a positive influence regardless of whether they include violent content. Although short-term rises in aggression have been observed in some laboratory studies, the balance of research does not support any connection between violent video games and long-term effects on aggression or violence.


My research is supported as a part of my work as a scholar at my home institution, Western Michigan University. My research received no grants or other monetary support from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors. I have never received any support (financial or otherwise) from or worked with the video game industry.


Do violent video games have negative effects on teenagers?

Christopher Ferguson has answered Extremely Unlikely

An expert from Stetson University in Psychology

At present the weight of evidence has clearly moved against this belief.

Contrary to an opinion expressed by another scholar, recent surveys of scholars find that beliefs linking violent games to societal violence is a minority view, with only perhaps 10-30% of scholars believing this to be true. See for example:

Ferguson, C.J., & Colwell, J. (2017) Understanding why scholars hold different views on the influences of video games on public health. Journal of Communication, 67(3), 305-327.

Quandt et al (2017):

Recent meta-analyses have likewise failed to find support for the view that violent games contribute to aggression or societal violence. See:

Ferguson, C. J. (2015). Do angry birds make for angry children? A meta-analysis of video game Influences on children’s and adolescents’ aggression, mental health, prosocial behavior and academic performance. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 10, 646-666.

Furuya-Kanamori & Doi (2016):

And studies by Patrick Markey, Scott Cunningham and others clearly show that the release of violent video games is associated with *declines* in societal violence, not increases.

An increasing number of studies using best-practice methods (many prior studies were of poor quality) have failed to find evidence linking violent games to aggression.

Recent independent government reviews by the US Supreme Court. UK, Australia, Sweden and the Trump administration (i.e. School Safety Commission) have concluded that there isn’t sufficient evidence to link violent games to societal aggression.

A recent policy statement by the American Psychological Association’s Media Psychology and Technology division specifically warned against linking violent media to societal violence as the evidence simply isn’t there:

Further, although other professional guilds have claimed effects exist, a recent review of these guild policy statements found them to be riddled with errors and misstatements. See: Elson, M., Ferguson, C. J., Gregerson, M., Hogg, J. L., Ivory, J., Klisanin, D., Markey, P. M., Nichols, D., Siddiqui, S., & Wilson, J. (in press). Do policy statements on media effects faithfully represent the science? Advances in Methods and Practices in Psychological Science.

Lastly the claim made by one scholar responding to this (Anderson) that skeptical scholars are employed by the video game industry is simply false and ad hominem. Statements such as these suggest, to me, that there is probably a greater problem of aggression among scholars studying video games than among teenagers playing them.


Do violent video games have negative effects on teenagers?

Anthony Bean has answered Extremely Unlikely

An expert from Framingham State University in Psychology

Although a large amount of research has concluded individuals who play violent video games are more likely to have higher aggression levels, only short term effects have been noted while additional replication studies have been unable to recreate similar results suggesting that these effects are not a significant effect for scholars and researchers to have concerns about. Most of the researchers in the field of video games have concluded that there are no significant effects for violence tendencies which makes them the majority of the field, rather than the minority. If anything, some people who represent a minority of the field continue to think and explicitly state that there are effects, but this represents a very small minority of the scholars in the field and have been disproven time and time again through much more rigorous studies.

There continues to be substantial research asserting a lack of conclusive evidence to support the connection between aggression in video gamers and their engagement with violent video game content (Bean & Groth-Marnat, 2014; Brown v. EMA, 2011; Ferguson, 2007; 2013; Markey & Markey, 2010; Olson, 2010).  In the United States these arguments climaxed in a Supreme Court ruling stating video games enjoy full speech protection from the Constitution (Brown v. EMA, 2011). Additionally, the Supreme Court raised concerns about the current state of video game research primarily stating methodological flaws found within the literature. Furthermore, researchers within the field have had difficulties with the conclusiveness of the findings of the current research due to claims of authorship bias, confounded methodologies, and possible moral panic agendas (Ferguson 2007, 2013). Since the research purporting that video games cause violence appears to be misinforming the public and is controversial at best, it is safe to say that it does hold adequate strength in the conversation and should be scrutinized heavily.

Bean, A., & Groth-Marnat, G. (2014, March 10). Video gamers and personality: A five-factor

model to understand game playing style. Psychology of Popular Media Culture. Advance

online publication.

Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association (Brown v. EMA), 131 S. Ct. 2729 (2011). Retrieved from

Ferguson, C. J. (2007). Evidence for publication bias in video game violence effects literature: A meta-analytic review. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 12, 470-482.

Ferguson, C. J. (2013). Violent video games and the Supreme Court: Lesson for the scientific community in the wake of the Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association. American Psychologist, 68, 57-74. DOI: 10.1037/a0030597.

Markey, P. M., & Markey, C. N. (2010). Vulnerability to violent video games: A review and integration of personality research. Review of General Psychology, 14(2), 82–91. doi:10.1037/a0019000.

Olson, C. K. (2010). Children’s motivations for video game play in the context of normal development. Review of General Psychology, 14, 180–187.

Przybylski, A. K., Deci, E. L., Rigby, C. S., & Ryan, R. M. (2014). Competence-impeding electronic games and players’ aggressive feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 106(3), 441-57.

Przybylski, A. K., Ryan, R. M., & Rigby, C. S. (2009). The motivating role of violence in video games. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 32(2), 243-59.


Do violent video games have negative effects on teenagers?

Victor C Strasburger has answered Near Certain

An expert from University of New Mexico School of Medicine in Pediatrics

The long answer is below; the short answer is that violent video games — especially 1st person shooter video games — represent one contributing factor to aggression, which is a very complex and multi-factorial behavior. They are not the leading cause but ONE FACTOR where many factors are often involved. Having said that, there will never be a study showing that violent video games cause mass shootings. As tragic (and perhaps even preventable) as they are, mass shootings are still rare enough that it would take a sample of several million people studied over a long period of time to demonstrate such an association — not going to happen! Yet virtually every mass shooter has been extremely enamored of 1st person shooter games, and several have actually trained on them. So yes, it’s a concern worth thinking about.

Bottom line: kids learn from the media, and violent video games tend to increase aggressive thoughts and even short-term actions.

See below for a very detailed analysis:

Vic Strasburger, M.D.

Distinguished Professor of Pediatrics Emeritus

Univ. of New Mexico School of Medicine


The New Media of Violent Video Games: Yet Same Old Media Problems?

Victor C. Strasburger, MD, and Ed Donnerstein, PhD

 Mass shootings from Jonesboro, Arkansas in 1998 to Aurora, Colorado and Newtown, Connecticut in 2012 have brought the issue of media effects (particularly violent video games) on young people to the forefront once again. Although discussion about the issue of media and their impact extends at least as far back as 1954, when the US Senate held formal hearings on whether media violence leads to juvenile delinquency, and encompasses thousands of research studies, reviews, and commentaries, conclusions remain elusive, particularly to policy makers and the media industry. While the majority of parents in the United States believe that there is a relationship between exposure to violent media and aggression, a substantial minority (48%) disagrees or are not sure.1 By contrast, a recent survey of psychologists and pediatricians found that the majority agree that violent video games may have harmful effects (B. J. Bushman and C. Carlos, unpublished data, 2013). The past decade has given us excellent new theoretical models and sophisticated research on the effects (both positive and negative) of new technology on children and adolescents.2-5 Yet, in spite of these advances, there still exists “gaps” in our—and it appears the public’s—knowledge and conclusions about the effects of some of these newer media technologies. Perhaps no area is more central and publicly debated then that of violent video games. This brief commentary will attempt to elucidate some of the problems and concerns in the current public debate but is not intended to be an exhaustive review of the literature.

Video Game Research From both a theoretical and an empirical perspective the evidence for violent video games impacting aggressive behavior is substantial.6,7 In terms of demonstrating increased aggressive behavior from exposure, the research on video games is as consistent as that with television violence.8,9 Although some have disagreed with these studies,10 the consensus of researchers8,9 is that effects from playing violent video games have been shown for (a) increased aggressive behavior, (b) hostile affect, (c) physiological arousal, (d) aggressive cognitions, and (e) reductions in prosocial behavior, possibly 

from desensitization. These results have been observed both in short term and longitudinal studies as well as cross-culturally.6 Researchers have noted that there are compelling reasons to expect that violent video games, because of their interactive nature, would have stronger effects on aggression than more traditional forms of media violence such as TV.11-13 In video games, the process of identification with the aggressor, active participation, repetitive actions, a hostile virtual reality, and reinforcement for aggressive actions are all strong mechanisms for the learning and retention of aggressive behaviors and attitudes. Yet the connection between these research studies and real-life mass shootings remains elusive. The shooting in Norway by Anders Breivik in 2011 which killed 69 individuals and the details of his obsessive violent video game use once again focused attention on media’s contributions. The more recent elementary school murder of 20 children in Newtown massacre this past year strengthened the argument that media violence, particularly violent video games, are a significant contributor to this violence. Part of the problem may be that the video game research is neither as voluminous nor quite as convincing as the older media violence research. For example, there are very few studies on video games, particularly firstperson shooter, and criminal behavior. One small study using functional magnetic resonance imaging to study normal teens and teens with disruptive behavior disorder actually found no difference in the impact of media violence exposure on brain functioning in the 2 groups.14 However, there are several studies linking frequent playing of violent video games to behavior that would be criminal if it were known to the police.11,12,15,16 Video game research has concentrated primarily on normal children and teenagers, not young people with mental illness. In theory, the older media violence research should be at least partially transferrable to the newer video game technology. Yet many in the public sphere and media commentators dismiss the research evidence. Comments like the FOX “Network Psychiatrists” Dr Ablow are a good example17:

In the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, people are finally motivated to look more closely how society fosters aggression. Some blame technology and the media— pointing a finger at violent video games and violent television shows and movies. First, it should be said that there is not sufficient evidence proving video games or movies or television cause [italics added] violence.

Even the Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden, in discussing the shootings of elementary school children in the Unites States noted, “There is [sic] no hard data as to whether or not these extremely violent video games cause people to engage in behavior that is antisocial, including using guns.”18 Nowhere, perhaps, did this debate on violent video games come to more of a head then in the US Supreme Court case on violent video games. On November 2, 2010, the Supreme Court of the United States heard oral arguments in the case of Schwarzenegger v Entertainment Merchants Association, concerning a California law that restricted the distribution of some violent video games to minors. On June 27, 2011, the Court ruled (7-2) that video game violence is “protected speech” under the First Amendment and that the State of California did not present sufficient evidence of significant harm to warrant an exception to the protection of the First Amendment.

Are Video Games the Same as TV? Very early in the hearings Supreme Court Justice Kagan asked “Well, do you actually have studies that show that video games are more harmful to minors than movies are?” This was followed soon after by Justice Ginsburg, “What about films? What about comic books? Grimm’s fairy tales? Why are video games special?”19 In spite of the theory and the empirical research on the effects of violent video games, the answer was at best speculative. Although there is a study in which participants “observe” others play a violent video game,20 even these researchers acknowledge this is not the same as comparing video games to traditional television or “old media.” This is a significant deficit in our research knowledge, and one which has substantial implications, as was often debated in the Supreme Court case. We strongly believe that the research on violent video games is strong, conclusive, and theoretically sound. However, 

we are very much in need of systematic studies that clearly show whether the effects of newer technology are more pervasive then traditional media, particularly if we say they are. In fact, we could make the same argument for sexual, frightening, and food marketing content. The research in all these areas is strong, yet although we may expect stronger effects for new media, the systematic comparative research still lags behind. In fact, some have argued that when it comes to effects on children and adolescent, “old” media might actually matter more than “new” media.21

Even if There Were 100% Convincing Evidence, Would Anyone Believe It? Perhaps the most serious problem in the violent video game debate, and for all types of media influence, is the simple fact that those in the political and policy making world simply do not accept the scientific findings. This is not new, and has been a point of contention for many years. Take for example the comments of Justice Scalia in the Supreme Court violent video game case19:

The State’s evidence is not compelling. California relies primarily on the research of Dr. Craig Anderson and a few other research psychologists whose studies purport to show a connection between exposure to violent video games and harmful effects on children. . . . They do not prove that violent video games cause minors to act aggressively . . . They show at best some correlation between exposure to violent entertainment and minuscule real-world effects, such as children’s feeling more aggressive or making louder noises in the few minutes after playing a violent game than after playing a nonviolent game.

In recent years, there have been excellent commentaries on why research in this area has not been accepted by the public.22 Of course one major reason is the confusion of cause with risks. As Livingstone and Helsper23(p8) noted recently:

It seems that the focus on simple and direct causal effects of the media is no longer appropriate. Instead, research should seek to identify the range of factors that directly, and indirectly through interactions with each other, combine to explain particular social phenomena. For as research of all types shows, each social problem (e.g. aggression, prejudice, obesity, bullying etc.) is associated with a distinct and complex array of putative causes. The task for those concerned with media harm is to identify and contextualize the role of the media within that array in order to permit a balanced judgment of the role played by the media, if any, on a case by case basis.

They are absolutely correct. We have seen in recent years excellent studies that articulate the risk factors associated with aggression and the contribution of media violence.24 Likewise, there has been substantial research showing real-world aggression, longitudinal and crosscultural effects, and numerous health and professional organization analysis (eg, American Academy of Pediatrics, International Society for Research on Aggression) of the harmful effects of media violence. Nevertheless, there is still this ongoing and never-ending debate within the media about media violence and aggression, and in particular violent video games. A critical question we can ask is what is it that media scholars can do to perhaps alter this perception.

How Might We Alter the Debate? The debates about effects and noneffects particularly with regard to media violence are not different for “new” technology. This divide between the scientific and public communities seems as old as the research itself. We seem to have only moved from violent cartoons on 1960s television, to graphic killings in contemporary video games. Nevertheless, we are encouraged by the suggestions of our academic colleagues on how we might “advance” this debate in a more positive direction. Excellent ideas have come from Huesmann et al22 and Bushman and Anderson.25 Some of these, including our own, are as follows:

  1. Recognizing that we have 2 roles—one as the “conservative” science communicator and the other as the “public educator.” We need to be able to present in a nontechnical manner our findings to the public. Within this educator role we can also explain how our scientific findings have influence our own behaviors (eg, monitoring the types of media our own children view). 2. Informing the public about research is in fact “part of our jobs.” We are now involved in situations where informing the public and courts of research is critical. Disseminating research beyond our scientific community needs to be a priority. The recent American Psychological Association (APA) Science Leadership Conference on promoting psychological science26 set a high priority on “marketing” our findings to the public and policy makers and suggested that within academia this should be a factor in faculty evaluations.25 3. Educating the public via our professional organizations needs to continue. Policy statements on media effects by groups like the American 

Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychological Association, and the International Society for Research on Aggression go a long way at informing the press about the potential risk factor of the media in areas of violence, sexuality, and obesity. 4. Continuing to collaborate with the media industry in trying to improve on our current rating systems for TV, film, and video games. At least in the Unites States, the research strongly suggests that parents want a change in the current system and strongly favor a single universal ratings system.27 5. Engaging the naysayers in an active and constructive dialogue and also recognizing that they may have conflicts of interest (eg, accepting payment for consultative services from the video game industry itself). We must be scrupulous in pointing these out to the media when controversy arises. 6. Convincing the federal government and private foundations that more research—and funding for that research—is desperately needed.28 If children and adolescents now spend >7 hours per day with a variety of different media,29 doesn’t it make sense to research what impact those media have on their development and behavior? 7. Creating a new 2017 National Institute of Mental Health comprehensive report on children, adolescents, and the media. Remarkably, the last National Institute of Mental Health report was published in 1982, before the Internet, cell phones, tablets, and social networking sites. A new report could consolidate current knowledge about both “old” and “new” media and jumpstart research funding for much-needed new studies. 8. Developing new interorganizational cooperation between major public health groups (eg, American Academy of Pediatrics, APA, American Medical Association) that would respond to media inquiries immediately and authoritatively, interact more with the entertainment industry, and push the federal government and private foundations to fund more research. 9. Extending our efforts into schools of communication and journalism, to teach up-and-coming journalists how to interpret the vast communications research on children and adolescents. 10. Urging the Federal Communications Commission to reevaluate the Fairness Doctrine. Not every issue has 2 sides; nor does each side deserve equal time. The public is easily misled when the naysayers are given valuable (and undeserved) media time.

 at UNIV OF NEW MEXICO on May 15, 2014cpj.sagepub.comDownloaded from 

4 Clinical Pediatrics XX(X)

These are all reasonable ideas. Hopefully they will move the debate in a different direction. We are encouraged, however, by the final statement of Huesmann:

While we agree with this approach, we also think that, as with other socially relevant effects in the past that the public and courts had trouble accepting (e.g., that smoking causes cancer, that segregating schools causes poor education for minorities), eventually truth will triumph and dissonance between beliefs and behaviors will be reduced more easily by changing behaviors rather than by denying that effects exist.

References 1. Rasmussen Reports. 52% Say Violence in Video Games, Movies Leads to More Violence in Society. July 30, 2012. lifestyle/general_lifestyle/july_2012/52_say_violence_ in_video_games_movies_leads_to_more_violence_in_ society. Accessed April 6, 2013.

  1. Donnerstein E.The media and aggression: From TV to the Internet. In: Forgas J, Kruglanski A, Williams K, eds. The Psychology of Social Conflict and Aggression. New York, NY: Psychology Press; 2011:267-284.
  2. Donnerstein E. Internet bullying. Pediatr Clin North Am. 2012;59:623-634.
  3. Singer DG, Singer JL, eds. Handbook of Children and the Media. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage; 2012.
  4. Strasburger VC, Jordan AB, Donnerstein E. Children, adolescents, and the media: health effects. Pediatr Clin North Am. 2012;59:533-588.
  5. Anderson CA, Gentile DA, Dill KE. Prosocial, antisocial, and other effects of recreational video games. In: Singer DG, Singer JL, eds. Handbook of Children and the Media. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage; 2012:249-272.
  6. Krahe B. Video game violence. In: Dill KE, ed. The Oxford Handbook of Media Psychology. New York, NY: Oxford University Press; 2013:352-372.
  7. Media Violence Commission. International Society for Research on Aggression. Report of the Media Violence Commission. Aggress Behav. 2012;38:335-341.
  8. Strasburger VC, Council on Communications and Media. Media violence (policy statement). Pediatrics. 2009;124:1495-1503.
  9. Ferguson CJ. Media violence effects: confirmed truth or just another x-file? J Forens Psychol Pract. 2009;9:103-126.
  10. Anderson CA, Gentile DA, Buckley KE. Violent Video Game Effects on Children and Adolescents. New York, NY: Oxford University Press; 2007.
  11. Hoph WH, Huber GL, WeiB RH. Media violence and youth violence: a 2-year longitudinal study. J Media Psychol. 2008;20:79-96.
  12. Lin J-H. Do video games exert stronger effects on aggression than film? The role of media interactivity and identification on the association of violent content and aggressive outcomes. Comput Hum Behav. 2013; 29:535-543.
  13. Matthews VP, Kronenberger WG, Wang Y, Lurito JT, Lowe MJ, Dunn DW. Media violence exposure and front lobe activation measured by functional magnetic resonance imaging in aggressive and nonaggressive adolescents. J Comput Assist Tomogr. 2005;29:287-292.
  14. Graber JA, Nichols T, Lynne SD, Brooks-Gunn J, Botvin G. A longitudinal examination of family, friend, and media influences on competent versus problem behaviors among urban minority youth. Appl Dev Sci. 2006;10:75-85.
  15. DeLisi M, Vaughn MG, Gentile DA, Anderson CA, Shook J. Violent video games, delinquency, and youth violence: new evidence. Youth Violence Juvenile Justice. 2013;11:132-142.
  16. Ablow K. Detoxing your kids from violent media. December 18, 2012. detoxing-your-kids-from-violent- media/. Accessed April 6, 2013.
  17. Tassi P. Biden says not to fear the facts about video game violence. Forbes. January 25, 2013. http://www.forbes. com/sites/insertcoin/2013/01/25/biden-says-not-to-fearthe- facts-about-video-game-violence/. Accessed April 6, 2013. 19. Brown, Governor of California, et al. v Entertainment Merchants Association, et al. No. 08-1448. Argued November 2, 2010. Decided June 27, 2011. http://www. Accessed April 6, 2013.
  18. Polman H, de Castro BO, van Aken MAG. Experimental study of the differential effects of playing versus watching violent video games on children’s aggressive behavior. Aggress Behav. 2008;34:256-264.
  19. Strasburger VC. Media matter—but “old” media may matter more than “new” media. Adolesc Med State of the Art Rev. 2014. In press.
  20. Huesmann LR, Dubow EF, Yang G. Why it is hard to believe that media violence causes aggression. In: Dill KE, ed. The Oxford Handbook of Media Psychology. New York, NY: Oxford University Press; 2013:159-171.
  21. Livingstone S, Helsper EJ. Children, internet and risk in comparative perspective. J Child Media. 2013;7:1-8.
  22. Gentile DA, Bushman BJ. Reassessing media violence effects using a risk and resilience approach to understanding aggression. Psychol Popular Media Cult. 2012;1:138-151.
  23. Bushman BJ, Anderson CA. Media violence and the American public: Scientific facts versus media misinformation. Am Psychol. 2001;56:477-489.
  24. Clay RA. Think globally, act locally. Monit Psychol. 2013;44:56-60.
  25. Gentile DA, Maier JA, Hasson MR, de Bonetti, BL. Parents’ evaluation of media ratings a decade after television ratings were introduced. Pediatrics. 2011;128:36-44.
  26. Strasburger VC. Why isn’t there more media research? Clin Pediatr. 2013;52:587-588. 29. Rideout V. Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds. Menlo Park, CA: Kaiser Family Foundation; 2010.


Do violent video games have negative effects on teenagers?

Craig Anderson has answered Near Certain

An expert from Iowa State University in Psychology, Social Sciences, Behavioural Science, Communication and Media

 Do violent video games have negative effects on teenagers?

A brief summary of several hundred scientific studies of violent video game effects on over 130,000 children, adolescents, and young adults can be boiled down to four main points. First, exposure to video game violence is a causal risk factor for several negative effects—including inappropriate physical aggression against other people, aggressive thinking, aggressive emotions, lack of empathy, emotional desensitization, and lack of prosocial (helping) behavior. Second, these effects can appear immediately after the exposure (e.g., minutes). Third, repeated exposure leads to long term harmful effects months or even years, later. Fourth, in the absence of other known risk factors for violence, high exposure to video game violence will not turn a normal well-adjusted child or adolescent into a mass killer. But it will make that person more likely to think, feel and behave in an inappropriately aggressive manner.

The best summaries on media violence effects in general, including video game violence, can be found in statements by unbiased scientific societies who have appointed experts to review the research literature. This includes:

–     International Society for Research on Aggression

–     Society for the Psychological Study of Social issues

–     American Academy of Pediatrics

–     American Psychological Association

–     American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

–     American Medical Association

–     American Academy of Family Physicians

–     American Psychiatric Association

–     U.S. Surgeon General

Here is a link to a web page from which these various reports (from 1972 to 2018) can be downloaded:

There is a small but very vocal group of skeptics, some of whom are closely aligned with the video game industry, who deny that there are any harmful effects, much like tobacco industry scientists denied that smoking causes lung cancer. The most vocal of these individuals routinely accuses the mainstream media violence researchers of bias and various unethical scientific practices. But, an independent review of the research results reported by key research teams discovered that the results of studies conducted by the two most heavily attacked scholars (Craig A. Anderson and Brad J. Bushman) are essentially identical to the results produced by all other researchers in the world, whereas the results of studies reported by the most vocal skeptic were extremely discrepant from what all of the leading research teams find.

See Greitemeyer, T., & Mügge, D. O. (2014). Video games do affect social outcomes: A meta-analytic review of the effects of violent and prosocial video game play. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 40, 578 –589. . See also Greitemeyer, T., & Mügge, D. O. (2015). “Video games do affect social outcomes: A meta-analytic review of the effects of violent and prosocial video game play”: Corrigendum. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 41(8), 1164. , for minor corrections to the original article.

The most recent major review of youth violence risk factors had this to say about media effects violence effects:

“Exposure to violent media is a cause of aggressive behavior and is correlated with violent criminal behavior, including mass shootings. It is important to note that the link between violent media and aggression is found in every country where studies have been conducted. A number of long-term studies have also found that high exposure to violent media in childhood is related to violence later in life, including criminal behavior, spousal abuse, and assault. It is illogical to assume that advertising, an industry worth half a trillion dollars in 2016, can influence consumer behavior, but that violent content in media does not influence aggressive behavior (). In addition, just as observing violence in the home, school, and community increases the odds of aggression, so too can observing violence in the media.”

(see: Bushman, B. J., Coyne, S. M., Anderson, C. A., Björkqvist, K. Boxer, P., Dodge, K. A., Dubow, E., Farrington, D. P., Gentile, D. A., Huesmann, L. R., Lansford, J. E., Novaco, R., Ostrov, J. M., Underwood, M. K., Warburton, W. A., Ybarra, M. L. (2018). Risk factors for youth violence: Youth Violence Commission, International Society for Research on Aggression. Aggressive Behavior, 44, 331-336. ).

In sum, yes, playing violent video games does have several negative effects on the teen age game player, and on younger and older people as well. The effects are large enough to warrant concern by parents, gamers, and society in general. However, media violence is only one of the known risk factors for aggressive and violent behavior. In my view (and that of the hundreds of mainstream media violence scholars worldwide), parents and other caregivers should be wary of exposing their children to media violence of any form, and should discuss with their children why such popular entertainment media are harmful to them and why aggressing against others violates their family values. Whether such games should be restricted by law is a public policy and legal issue, an issue on which I do not make public statements (despite what you might see on some internet sites). However, with the exception of the United States, virtually all modern societies do legally restrict children’s and teens access to the more extreme types of media violence. 


Have a question about science, health, fitness, or diet? Get cited, evidence-based insights with Consensus.

Try for free