(This is cross-posted from the blog on my private practice site.)
In 2004, Lawrence Kutner, PhD, and Cheryl K. Olson, ScD, cofounders and directors of the Harvard Medical School Center for Mental Health and Media, started doing research on the effects of video games. With $1.5 million in federal funding from The US Department of Justice, Kutner and Olson set off on an mission to review all of the literature on the subject and then to conduct independent research in order to discover whether there is any real scientific evidence to back up the claim that violence in video games causes real life violence. Their book, Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth About Violent Video Games and What Parents Can Do was just released on April 15th. An excerpt of the book is available here from Simon and Schuster.
I have not read this book, but it looks like a good one for parents, educators, and helping professionals concerned about violence in video games and violence in society. Olson and Kutner also share about their personal experiences with video games in the first chapter of the book:
Our Journey as Parents
The prolific scientist and author Isaac Asimov famously stated, “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’, but ‘That’s funny…’ ” So it shouldn’t be surprising that our first step into what would become several years of full-time research was our casual observations of our son, who liked to play video games.
One of us (Cheryl) is a public health researcher specializing in media influences on health-related behaviors. The other (Larry) is a clinical psychologist and journalist specializing in child development and parent-child communication. We’re old enough to have been teenagers at a time when the few video games available had titles like Pong and Space Invaders. But we’re young enough to feel very comfortable working and playing with computers and other technology.
Neither of us were “gamers” a few years ago; one of us is today. (The other can take it or leave it — a sure sign of a generation gap.) Our teenage son, Michael, had first played simple computer games in childcare when he was about three years old. Those games had crude graphics and agonizingly repetitive (to an adult) music. They involved completing simple tasks, such as lining up an animated fire truck with a mark on the screen so that the cartoon firefighters could rescue a cat in distress. [full text]