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Senator: Let's study violent video games -- again

Sen. Jay Rockefeller says he will call on the National Academy of Sciences to investigate the impact of violent video games on youth.

Senator Jay Rockefeller
Senator Jay Rockefeller Senator Jay Rockefeller

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) has introduced legislation that calls for an investigation into violent video games and their impact on children in the wake of last week's horrific Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

In a statement released yesterday, Rockefeller said that his legislation enlists the National Academy of Sciences to "investigate the impact of violent video games and other content on children's well-being." If the organization is given the green light, it will present its findings within 18 months to Congress, the FTC and the FCC.

"Recent court decisions demonstrate that some people still do not get it," Rockefeller said. "They believe that violent video games are no more dangerous to young minds than classic literature or Saturday morning cartoons. Parents, pediatricians, and psychologists know better."

The impact of violent video games on youthful behaviors has been debated for years. However, the topic took center stage last week after Adam Lanza, a reportedly avid gamer, killed 20 innocent children, his mother, and school officials, in one of the worst school shootings in American history.

Rockefeller said he will call on the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission to "expand their work in this area."

"Changes in technology now allow kids to access violent content on-line with less parental involvement," the senator said in a statement. "It is time for these two agencies to take a fresh look at these issues."

The Entertainment Software Association, which represents the interests of the gaming industry, issued a statement last night saying that it extends "prayers and condolences" the victims' families in Newtown, but argued that there is no link between violent video games and real-world violence.

"The search for meaningful solutions must consider the broad range of actual factors that may have contributed to this tragedy," the organization said in the statement. "Any such study needs to include the years of extensive research that has shown no connection between entertainment and real-life violence."

Independent studies on the topic have largely proven inconclusive. In some cases, the sample sizes were too small to determine whether a correlation existed. In others, the independence of the companies conducting or funding studies has been called into question.

Earlier this month, Ohio State University released a study that found that people who play violent video games for three consecutive days show an increase in aggression and hostility. That study, however, only examined 70 participants, and the researchers couldn't say for sure that extended game playing will result in violent acts.

"[This] could be compared to smoking cigarettes," Brad Bushman, the study's co-author said in a statement. "A single cigarette won't cause lung cancer, but smoking over weeks or months or years greatly increases the risk. In the same way, repeated exposure to violent video games may have a cumulative effect on aggression."

(Via Bloomberg)