A study conducted by communications professor Edward T. Vieira of Simmons College says long-term exposure to violent videogames can reduce the development of empathy and sympathy in young children.
Described as the first study to ever look at how violent videogames affect the development of "moral learning" on children aged 7-15, Vieira's survey found that frequent exposure to game violence has an impact on a child's perception that some kinds of violence are acceptable and that children who play a lot of violent games are more likely to find all types of violence acceptable - in other words, that children do run the risk of becoming desensitized to violence through exposure to games.
"Certainly not every child who continues to play violent videogames is going to go out and perpetrate a violent act, but the research suggests that children - particularly boys - who are frequently exposed to these violent games are absorbing a sanitized message of 'no consequences for violence' from this play behavior," Vieira said. "The concern arises when children are taking in this message and there is a convergence of other negative environmental factors at the same time, such as poor parental communication and unhealthy peer relationships."
The study examined 166 children, 66 percent boys and 34 percent girls, and also found that "many" of the children aged 7-12 reported playing M-rated games despite their being rated for gamers 17 and older. 71 percent of the games reported in the study contained "at least some mild violence," while 25 percent of the games contained "intense violence, blood and gore." The results also indicated that gamers who reported playing a variety of games consistently stuck with similar kinds of games.
At least two previous studies have found that gaming doesn't desensitize older players, including teenagers, in the long run, but studying its impact on very young children in a controlled setting is a dicier proposition because of the obvious ethical problems involved with exposing them to violent games for extended periods. It's hardly unreasonable to suggest that violent gaming can have an impact on very young, developing minds, but it's also not unreasonable to say that the same is true for any number of things, including books, movies and music. In fact, it was said, by Vieira himself. Videogames have ratings for a reason and if a seven-year-old is playing Bulletstorm, I think what we're really looking at is not a problem with videogames, but a problem with parenting.
Source: Yahoo! News