Psychologists have long argued about whether or not video games are dangerous for kids, but thing’s for sure: They’re bad for their DRIVING skills. And with the majority of fatal auto accidents involving teens, this is not good news.
Teens who play mature-rated, risk-glorifying video games may be more likely than those who don’t to become reckless drivers who experience increases in automobile accidents, police stops and willingness to drink and drive, making their parents wish that teens could be restricted to self-driving cars.
Psychologist Jay G. Hull says, "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. 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."
Researchers conducted a series of phone interviews with 5,000 US teens. 50% of them reported in the first interview that their parents allowed them to play mature-rated games and among those, 32% said they had played Spiderman II, 12% had played Manhunt and 58% had played Grand Theft Auto III. Playing these video games has been associated with increases in sensation seeking, rebelliousness and self-reported risky driving. Higher rankings in sensation seeking and rebelliousness are directly linked to risky driving habits, automobile accidents, being stopped by police and a willingness to drink and drive.
Between the second and third interviews, teens who said they had been pulled over by the police increased from 11 21%, and those who said they had a car accident went from 8 to 14%. Were they becoming more honest, or were they having more accidents?
Growing a little older doesn’t help: In the third interview, when the teens were about 16 years old, 25% percent said "yes" when asked if they engaged in any unsafe driving habits. The only thing that might help would be to persuade them to put down those video games. According to Hull, "Because the study began when the participants were playing video games but were too young to drive, it is clear that the videogame exposure preceded the risky driving."
He says, "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."
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