WASHINGTON (CBS DC) – Teenagers who play violent video games for hours on end may become numb to violence, a new study finds.
Published in the May issue of Psychomatic Medicine: Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine, the small new study found that teenage boys aged 13-15 who play violent video games are more prone to aggressive behavior and higher anxiety levels in their daily lives.
According to HealthDay News, The study focused on 30 teenage boys who were divided into two groups. One group commonly played violent video games for three or more hours a day (the high exposure group) while the other group played such brutal games no more than one hour each day.
One example of a violent game played was “Manhunt,” while the nonviolent games included titles such as “Animaniacs.”
The differences in the boys’ reactions began later in the night after gaming.
During sleep, the boys in the low-exposure group who played the violent game had faster heart rates and poorer quality of sleep than those in the high-exposure, violent game group. The boys in the low-exposure, non-violent group also reported increased feelings of sadness after playing the violent game.
“The violent game seems to have elicited more stress at bedtime in both groups, and it also seems as if the violent game in general caused some kind of exhaustion,” wrote Malena Ivarsson, of the Stress Research Institute at Stockholm University in Sweden, and colleagues.
“However, the exhaustion didn’t seem to be of the kind that normally promotes good sleep, but rather as a stressful factor that can impair sleep quality.”
The differences between the two teen groups’ physical and mental responses suggest that frequent exposure to violent video games may have a desensitizing effect, the researchers said.