Video games, porn hook young men, with sad consequences

Published: Friday, June 1 2012 11:21 a.m. MDT

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Related story: Video games may be good for your brain after all

Overuse of video games and readily available pornography online are robbing young men of their futures.

That's the premise of a recent guest column on CNN by a pair of experts who have studied the issue and recently published a book called the "Demise of Guys."

They're not the first to talk about it. Stories like a two-part series published a few months ago in the Deseret News have been documenting lapses in academic achievement as well as other challenges that boys in general face.

A documentary called The Bro Code, produced by the Media Education Foundation, details how violence and sexuality have co-mingled. And the media section in the series notes that, "From video games to TV and film and music, even when violence isn't overt, there are overtones of disrespect to women, of aggression as a kind of macho goal."

But the new book, by psychologists Philip Zimbardo and Nikita Duncan, is especially critical of the role that addiction to video games or to pornography play in swamping young mens' future.

"Every compulsive gambler, alcoholic or drug addict will tell you that they want increasingly more of a game or drink or drug in order to get the same quality of buzz," the two wrote in the CNN commentary.

Gambling and pornography are called "arousal addictions," they said, the attraction being the "novelty, the variety or the surprise factor of the content. Sameness is soon habituated; newness heightens excitement. In traditional drug arousal, conversely, addicts want more of the same cocaine or heroin or favorite food.

Zimbardo and Duncan say it creates "risk averse" guys who won't "navigate the complexities and risks inherent to real-life relationships, school and employment."

They're not short of evidence, citing Norwegian mass murder suspect Anders Behring Breivik, who claimed he prepared for his shooting rampage by playing "World of Warcraft" and "Call of Duty" for up to 16 hours a day. He shot 77 people.

They also told stories of others whose marriages blew apart because of porn and whose health was physically damaged by playing video games continuously.

Reports on the effects of video games vary. A study in 2011 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently noted that "regular porn users are more likely to report depression and poor physical health than nonusers are." The why, it said, centers on isolation. Porn takes the place of real interaction, either sexual or social.

Other studies suggest a link between violent video games and real, not simulated aggression.

Not all video games are being linked to bad things. For instance, a very recent study shows that video games can boost creativity. Other research over the years has pointed to video games as a great training ground for certain skills, acting as simulators for pilots or improving eye-hand coordination. And most video games are not violent, according to the National Video Game Association.

Zimbardo can also be seen in a "TED Talk," where he discusses many of the same concerns. TED published the book.

EMAIL: lois@desnews.com, Twitter: Loisco

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