Video Games Are Just Fake Play, Right?

Mature rated video games associated with risky driving behavior in teens

(RxWiki News) Many parents let their children play video games that are rated as mature, or ‘adult only.’ You may think that children are unaffected by these games but a new study suggests that, maybe, you should think again.

The study suggests that US teenagers who play mature video games, like Grand Theft Auto III and Manhunt prior to getting their driver’s license are more likely to admit engaging in risky driving behavior, like speeding, tailgating, and ignoring stop signs.

"Driving is not a game."

“Most parents would probably be disturbed to learn that we observed that this type of game play was more strongly associated with teen drivers being pulled over by the police than their parenting practices,” said Jay G. Hull, PhD, psychology professor at Dartmouth College.

“With motor vehicle accidents the No. 1 cause of adolescent deaths, popular games that increase reckless driving may constitute even more of a public health issue than the widely touted association of video games and aggression.”

The study, which was completed by 2,718 US teenagers, involved four telephone interviews. The first when the teen was about 14, and the last at 18.

About 50 percent of teens reported that they were allowed to play mature rated video games at 14 years old. During the third interview, taken at 16 years old, 25 percent of the teens reported being unsafe drivers.

Over the course of the study, researchers asked questions to assess how willing to engage in risky behavior the teen was by asking questions like “I like to do dangerous things” and “I get in trouble at school.”

What the researchers found is that the teens who played mature video games were statistically more likely to admit to risky driving behavior years later.

The authors believe that risky driving may be an indication of other risky behavior as well.

“Playing these kinds of video games could also result in these adolescents developing personalities that reflect the risk-taking, rebellious characters they enact in the games and that could have broader consequences that apply to other risky behaviors such as drinking and smoking,” adds Hull.

The study authors note that their results are speculative due to the fact that all the data was self-reported.

The study was published August 27, 2012 in the journal Psychology of Popular Media Culture and was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

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Review Date: 
September 17, 2012