Is there a clear link between media violence and bad behavior in kids?

Limit Kids’ Exposure to Media Violence, Docs Say. WebMD.com, July 18, 2016.

An article that captures some of the controversy surrounding the issue of the impact of violent media on kids. Three experts are cited and quoted. One expert, Dr. Dmitri Christakis from Seattle, takes the side of grave concern and supports the position of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which sees a clear link between media violence and problematic behaviors in children. He argues, for instance, for parents to play violent video games with their children and form opinions about the game and then make parental decisions about media diet accordingly.

The second, Prof Christopher Ferguson of Stetson University in Texas, argues that any causal link has not been proven convincingly between children engaging in media violence-watching and actual violence. Hence he seems to make no specific recommendations.

The third is Dr. Gene Beresin of Boston who walks a middle road. On the one hand, he acknowledges that the existence of an actual causal link between children watching media violence and then engaging in media violence is not firmly established. On the other, he argues that such a link not being well established should not preclude parents from being involved in examining closely the diet of children, their individual tendencies, and hence the limits parents should be setting on kids.

In personal communications with me, Dr. Beresin has gone further. First, although he knows Prof Ferguson personally, he is perplexed that Ferguson seems to take stands on very little except the need for further research. Further, Dr. Beresin, who recently visited Portland where I live and spoke at the Oregon Psychiatric Physicians Association meeting on violent media, does firmly believe that at least two groups of children should definitely have limits set on their consumption of media violence. These are children who have manifest tendencies toward violence and so seem likely to emulate media violence and children who have severe anxiety conditions and so seem likely to develop deeper fears after watching media violence, including for instance news shows in which violent crimes are treated.