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February 21, 2013

Report links violent media, mental health and guns to mass shootings

National Science Foundation study was requested by Congressman following Sandy Hook massacre

(Continued)

The NSF report examines exposure to violent media, including video games, movies, television, apps, music and comic books. Violent video games increase aggressive thoughts and behavior, angry feelings and physiological arousal, and decrease helping behavior and feelings of empathy for others, according to the report. 

The researchers also said that rating systems have not kept up with the increasingly violent content of popular media, and there is no standard rating system in the U.S.

Exposure to violent media is “one of the easiest risk factors to change,” according to one study in the report.  It included possible solutions such as more warning labels, establishing a universal rating system that would make ratings among all types of media uniform and easier to understand, and educating parents.

Wolf also is considering legislation that would require reduced-violence versions of video games with less-realistic images (i.e. blue-colored blood), similar to measures that are already in place in Europe.

Media coverage

The report also questioned whether the extensive media coverage that takes place following a shooting negatively affects adolescents.

“The news media cover rampage shootings heavily, but very little is known about the effects of such coverage on adolescents and young adults,” one study said.  “Does such coverage increase thoughts of imitation, as it seems to in suicide?  Is it more likely to influence thoughts of imitation among youth who already have thoughts of suicide and homicide?”

Another study the report cited dealt with mental health, examining “signaling behavior” among rampage shooters.  Perpetrators are generally at the early onset of severe mental illness, with symptoms they find frightening, but often go entirely undiagnosed or untreated, according to the report.  Those who survive into their 20s often develop full-blown mental disorders that are immediately recognized, but at the age of 12-14, these conditions are often just beginning, but lead the shooter to magnify slights and feel severely depressed by rejection, the study showed.

Still another study found that there might even be a link between these three main factors, with a particular tie between mental instability and consumption of violent media. 

Story provided by ConsumerAffairs.

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