The real question, he said, is how exposure to violence affects how children treats parents, siblings, friends and women. A 15-year longitudinal study by a Bushman colleague looked at the impact of violent television on children ages 8 to 11. Fifteen years later, those in the study whose favorite shows as children were violent were far more likely to push, grab or shove their spouses.
Much of what leads to aggression and violence in American culture is difficult for a parent to address, such as low IQ, poverty and drug and alcohol addiction. Bushman said he is passionate about violent video game research because he wants to protect children.
"We don't let our kids smoke cigarettes, drink beer or play with guns," he said during the question-and-answer session after his presentation. "Let's protect our children. Let's make sure they don't consume age-inappropriate media."
One reason comes from a new study that hasn't yet been published. In it, researchers found that games like Grand Theft Auto encourage players to practice no self-control. The violent video game players in the study ate three times more than the other study participants.
The researchers also awarded raffle tickets to players for correct answers on a test. Each ticket increased the chance of winning the iPad in the raffle. The researchers gave the players an envelope full of tickets and told the players to take out how many they had earned. Those who had played violent video games took eight times more tickets than other participants.
"Violent video games discourage self-control," Bushman said. "The top two contributing factors to success in life are intelligence and self-control."
Bushman's message, rooted in science, is aimed at parents, and again, many teens don't like it.
"Violent media is something we can do something about," he said. He does just that in his own home. The television has a password, he said. The computers have passwords. There are no screens in the children's rooms. His children, a 19-year-old daughter and boys who are 17 and 14, have iPads, but must use them in rooms with open doors and must hand them over to their parents at night.
"They hate me, too," Bushman said with a smile, "just like every other teenager in America."
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