New research suggests that the more time kids spend playing video games, even first-person shooters like Halo Reach, the less likely they are to commit violent crimes.
Violent video games make players, especially impressionable youths, more aggressive and more likely to be violent. Right? That’s what predominant video-game researchers would have you believe.
Michael Ward, in the department of economics at the University of Texas at Arlington, is conducting new research that finds just the opposite. He says the more likely kids are to play video games — violent or otherwise — the less likely they are to commit crimes. This is, he theorizes, for a fairly obvious reason:
“Video games not only cost money, but they also cost time. It takes a lot of time to beat the game, and so all those hours you’re playing the game are hours that you’re not getting into trouble,” he says.
Let’s look at the juvenile rate of violent crime for a moment. According to this data, culled from FBI sources, the juvenile crime rate has fell 36% between 1995 and 2008. The juvenile murder rate fell 62% in that time. At the same time, in 2010 67% of households played video games, and gamers played an average of 8 hours a week, according to the Entertainment Software Ratings Board. Game sales went from $2.6 billion in 1996 to $9.5 billion in 2007, according to the Entertainment Software Association. It’s safe to say some of those purchased games were played by teens.
So, we have an increase in the use of video games and a decrease in juvenile crime. Are these things correlated? Absolutely. Did the increase in video game usage cause the decrease in crime? You can’t say for sure. Ward is working on that, but unfortunately his studies aren’t available online. Still, his work seems promising, at least in the short term.
Ward says for now, … cracking down on video games may not be an effective way for communities to immediately crack down on crime.