Youth drawn to restricted video games, study

Labeling video games as violent or age-inappropriate only makes them more attractive to girls and boys, particularly those who tend to do the opposite of what they are told, study findings suggest.

“The more restrictive the age-label, the more attractive the video games were judged to be,” Dr. Elly A. Konijn, of VU University Amsterdam, told Reuters Health. This was evident among boys and girls 7 to 8 years old, as well as adolescents, Konijn said.

Moreover, among youth with a strong “reactance” personality trait - the tendency to behave contrary to the rules and regulations that appear to restrict behavior. These subjects had a stronger attraction to video games with violent content labels, Konijn and colleagues report in the journal Pediatrics.

The researchers assessed reactive, sensation seeking, and aggressive personality traits of 310 Dutch youth (51 percent boys), and the youths’ desire to play video games rated violent or not by the Pan European Game Information classification system.

Boys and girls in each of three age groups - 26 percent 7 to 8 years, 40 percent 12 to 13 years, and 34 percent 16 to 17 years old - read descriptions for six violent and six non-violent video games with varying age labels.

As expected, when youths rated how much they wanted to play each game, games with more restrictive age labels were deemed more attractive. Moreover, boys and girls with stronger reactance personalities showed a stronger attraction, while aggressive and sensation seeking traits did not contribute to attraction.

“Our findings suggest that video games should not be forbidden,” Konijn and colleagues note. “Forbidden video games will just become unspeakably desirable for the children we want to protect,” they surmise.

SOURCE: Pediatrics, March 2009.

Provided by ArmMed Media