Our video games may be spying on us, but what ELSE are they doing? How much scientific evidence is there for and against the assertion that exposure to video game violence can harm teens? And it’s not just violence that’s the problem–Fast food companies are creating websites that market unhealthy, processed foods to kids. Should food companies face tougher regulations?

Experts on teen video violence disagree, but those who say violent video games are harmful to teens have published much more evidence supporting their claims than have experts on the other side of the debate. When it comes to movies and cartoons, producers need to cool it: They seem to think that adding violent elements will make their product more appealing to teens, but a recent survey shows it doesn’t. Researcher Andrew J. Weaver says, "Violence isn’t the attractive component in these cartoons, which producers seem to think it is. It’s more other things that are often associated with the violence. It’s possible to have those other components, such as action specifically, in non-violent ways. You don’t have to cram violence into these cartoons to get kids to like them. They’ll like them without the violence, just as much if not more."

But a more insidious problem is the constant bombardment of advertising beamed at kids who go online–most of it for food that is unhealthy, such as the General Mills Honey Nuts Cheerios website. Many studies show there’s link between junk-food marketing and poor diets, which lead to childhood obesity. These sites advertise to children in a way they’re not allowed to do on TV, where rules limit commercials during children’s programming. In the April 21st edition of the New York Times, Matt Richtel quotes psychiatrist Susan Linn as saying, "Food marketers have tried to reach children since the age of the carnival barker, but they’ve never had so much access to them and never been able to bypass parents so successfully."

While violent video games may lead to more aggression and anger in players, a new study shows that the opposite is also true: relaxing video games can make people happier and more kind. Psychologist Brad Bushman says, "With all the evidence about the dangers of violent video games, it’s good to know that game players can choose games that will provide a positive experience." Bushman has conducted many studies showing the bad effects of violent games, especially on teens and young people. But this is the first to show the effects of relaxing video games. He says, "Until recently, we couldn’t tell if relaxing video games improved people’s moods, because such games didn’t exist. Most video games try to rev people up rather than calm them down. But there’s a new genre of games available that provide a calming experience." And by the way, computer games are not just for kids. New research shows that computer games can speed up and improve a patient’s recovery from paralysis after a stroke–so get Granny a (not too violent) game!

It’s not too late for Granny (or anybody else in the family) to ignore those video ads and start eating RIGHT! To learn how, download Anne Strieber’s famous diet book, "What I Learned From the Fat Years." Using scientific principles, she devised a diet that helped her to lose 100 pounds and YOU CAN TOO. 

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