Science and Law
31st January 2013

Safety Assessment of Video Games in Children

Assessing the safety of pharmaceutical products, medical devices and other FDA-regulated products requires a systematic approach and a critical review of the available data. Assessing the safety of video games is no different.

Safety Assessment of Video Games in Children

Assessing the safety of pharmaceutical products, medical devices and other FDA-regulated products requires a systematic approach and a critical review of the available data. Assessing the safety of video games is no different.

The literature evaluating video game safety can be divided into different areas of scientific inquiry, including the following:

  • Potential for video games to be addictive
  • Potential for video games to cause violence
  • Potential for video games to impair cognitive development

The following sections explore the available data relevant to addressing these three broad areas of inquiry.

 

Potential for video games to be addictive

The defining characteristic of addiction is compulsive, out-of control chemical or substance use despite serious negative consequences.  Authoritative diagnostic guidelines such as the International Classification of Disease, 10th edition (ICD-10) and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition (DSM-IV) characterize drug dependence by a cluster of cognitive, behavioral and physiological symptoms.

Research over the last three decades has provided great advances in the understanding of the underlying neurobiological substrates of substance dependence and addiction. It is now well accepted that certain parts of the brain play an important role in regulating pleasurable behaviors, and that neuronal pathways to and from these brain regions are involved in regulating reward. These “reward circuits” are located within the dopamine system of the brain. The precise mechanisms underlying addictive behavior, while widely studied, remain poorly characterized.

The history of the study of addiction has been focused on drugs such as opiates, nicotine, amphetamines, and other substances of abuse. Nevertheless, behavioral activities have been widely studied for their potential to be addicting as well. These activities include gambling, sex, eating, internet use, and recently playing video games.

The scientific literature evaluating the addiction potential of these behavioral activities fails to come to any consensus on whether they are addictive in the same way that drugs of abuse are addictive. At this time, there appears to be no reliable scientific evidence demonstrating that video games are addictive. However, this is an area of intense focus and scrutiny in the scientific and lay community. Therefore, it is very important to continue to follow the science carefully and to assess the data as it becomes available.

Potential for video games to cause violence

There has been longstanding concern that exposure to video games – especially video games with violent themes – could somehow influence adolescents to ultimately engage in violent behaviors.

There are opinions in the scientific literature based on “common sense” views and “professional experience” that take the perspective that video games are linked to violence or aggression. One recent published commentary asserts that the “overwhelming conclusion to be drawn from this research is the fact that there are, indeed, harmful effects of viewing violence…” and that “…there is a great need for concern on the part of parents, policy makers, and professionals in regard to the unbridled expansion of media violence directed to youngsters.”

Is this true?

Actually, a systematic review of the available scientific evidence suggests otherwise. The well designed, empirical studies that have been performed generally fail to find any association between playing violent video games as a child or adolescent and ultimately engaging in violent or negative behaviors. For example, according to one recent study: “Results indicated that exposure to video game violence was not related to any of the negative outcomes.” Not unexpectedly, other factors (e.g., depression, antisocial personality traits, exposure to family violence and peer influences) were the best predictors of aggression-related outcomes.

Another recent analysis reported that “exposure to violent game had neither short-term nor long-term predictive influences on either positive or negative outcomes.”

Potential for video games to impair cognitive development

In addition to concerns about violence and/or addiction, a variety of other concerns linked to video games have been studied including moral disengagement, cooperative behavior, and blood flow activity in the brain. Due to the difficulty in defining and measuring these endpoints, they are even more difficult to study rigorously than addiction and/or aggression. There is certainly no body of scientific evidence supporting a link between playing violent video games as a child and having an increased risk of cognitive impairment (as measured in any of these ways). As with both addiction and/or aggression, there are a number of other factors that could confound the analysis and lead to erroneous conclusions related to a causal inference.

Indeed, some studies have supported the view that some video game exposure can have a beneficial effect on visuo-spacial performance.

Conclusions

As with many other controversies, opinions get ahead of the data and guide the public debate. These opinions are often shaped by a biased and non-systematic review of the evidence (i.e., cherry-picking results to suit the conclusions that one wishes to draw) as well as reliance upon anecdotal, uncontrolled studies. It is crucial to make informed decisions regarding any potentially negative correlates of video game activity. Sound public policy should be driven by a systematic, data-driven review of well-designed empirical scientific studies.

Did you like this post? We are here to help! Schedule a consult with one of our experts.

Just fill out the form bellow and we will contact you with more information.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Recent Related Articles

Dr. David Schwartz’s IADC Presentation: The Use of Genetic Testing in the Courtroom [Download Slides]
15 July 2020
Dr. David Schwartz’s IADC Presentation: The Use of Genetic Testing in the Courtroom [Download Slides]

On Wednesday July 8, 2020, Dr. David Schwartz of Innovative Science Solutions presented at the IADC 2020 Virtual Annual Meeting on a panel titled The Use of Genetic Testing in the Courtroom. A complimentary copy of the panel presentation is now available for download. Read more

The Use of Genetic Testing in the Courtroom: Dr. David Schwartz will be Presenting at the IADC 2020 Virtual Annual Meeting
02 July 2020
The Use of Genetic Testing in the Courtroom: Dr. David Schwartz will be Presenting at the IADC 2020 Virtual Annual Meeting

Dr. David Schwartz of Innovative Science Solutions will be presenting at the IADC 2020 Virtual Annual Meeting on a panel titled The Use of Genetic Testing in the Courtroom. Read more

WEBINAR ANNOUNCEMENT: What’s in Those Genes?
12 June 2020
WEBINAR ANNOUNCEMENT: What’s in Those Genes?

Genetic Evidence Concerning Causation for Mesothelioma 16 June 2020 at 2pm Eastern Daylight Time. Read more

Talc and Asbestos Defendants Should Monitor and Utilize Published Studies Linking Mesothelioma to Genomic Causes
28 April 2020
Talc and Asbestos Defendants Should Monitor and Utilize Published Studies Linking Mesothelioma to Genomic Causes

Plaintiff experts having been asserting for decades that all mesotheliomas must be linked to some asbestos exposure. Indeed, this has led to the erroneous (but widespread) view that mesothelioma is a signature disease, only caused by asbestos exposure. Read more

Let’s work together

The journey to scientific and commercial success is often complex and always critical, if you are looking for an expert partner to help steer you to confident solutions, contact us today

Contact us