Video games linked to violence in teens: US study

US study finds playing aggressive games can trigger delinquency, but HK sociologists feel triad culture is more of a threat to youngsters here

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 March, 2013, 4:03am

A strong link between playing violent video games and delinquency and violent behaviour in young people has been established by an American study.

However, experts in Hong Kong said yesterday that it could be a different case here, with triad culture having more influence on criminal tendencies than computer games.

Research findings from Iowa State University, released on Tuesday, found both the frequency of play and affinity for violent games were strongly associated with delinquent and violent behaviour, US-based news website Science Daily reported.

Researchers analysed 227 people between 14 and 18 years old with a criminal history in Pennsylvania. The average offender had committed nearly nine serious acts of violence, such as gang fighting, hitting a parent, or attacking another person in the prior year.

Matt DeLisi, a professor of sociology at the university, said the study showed the connection was strong, even when controlling for a history of violence and psychopathic traits among juvenile offenders.

Craig Anderson, professor of psychology and director of the Centre for the Study of Violence at Iowa State, said that while exposure to violent games was not the sole cause of delinquent behaviour, it was a risk factor.

But Ted Tam Chung-hoi, a veteran social worker at Youth Outreach, said the influence of triad society could be larger than video games in Hong Kong.

"Usually young people get involved in violent activities through triads. The leader would tell them to participate in fights, and take them to places such as bars and discos," he said. "Instead, if a young person is really into video games, he would stay at home and be less exposed to such activities."

Tam said that although video or web games involving fighting or other violent elements were popular among young Hongkongers, he could not see a direct link with delinquency.

Another social worker, Cheng Siu-hung of St James' Settlement, also did not think playing video games directly triggered violent behaviour. Cheng said young people with a smaller social circle could be addicted to video games more easily. He believed whether a person developed a violent tendency from video games depended a lot on the personality.

He recalled a young person who became so addicted to online games that he hid in his room and did not see his family for more than a year, although they lived in the same flat. The boy had shown a slight violent leaning in his speech, but not in his actions.

Cheng advised parents to seek help from social workers as soon as they discovered their children were addicted to such games.