New research: Teens who play mature-rated video games drive more recklessly

A new study just reported in the American Psychological Association’s Monitor on Psychology (November 2012) that teens who play video games such as Spider-Man 2, Manhunt, and Grand Theft Auto III report riskier driving—which is directly linked to a willingness to drink and drive, having more car accidents, and being stopped by police more often. This study is compelling because of its scope; researchers interviewed 5000 U.S. teenagers four times over a four-year period. Between the second and third interviews, 11% more teens who played these video games had been pulled over by police and 6% more had been involved in car accidents. At the third interview, when they were age 16, 25% of teens admitted to engaging in unsafe driving habits (e.g., tailgating, weaving in and out of traffic, ignoring stop signs, speeding through yellow light, not using seat belts, and so forth). By the time they were 18, 90% of teens reported at least one of these risky behaviors. Researchers found that reckless driving was linked to higher self-ratings of sensation-seeking and rebelliousness (e.g., “I like to do dangerous things” and “I get in trouble at school”), which can lead to teens developing personalities much like video game characters and result in other risky behaviors. This study is also disturbing because it controlled for the effects of parenting styes—which means risk-glorifying video games affected teens’ driving habits more than whether their parents were warm and responsive or demanding.

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