Do violent video games contribute to youth violence?
97% of 12-17 year olds in the US played video games in 2008, thus fueling an $11.7 billion domestic video game industry. In 2008, 10 of the top 20 best-selling video games in the US contained violence.
Violent video games have been blamed for school shootings, increases in bullying, and violence towards women. Critics argue that these games desensitize players to violence, reward players for simulating violence, and teach children that violence is an acceptable way to resolve conflicts.
Video game advocates contend that a majority of the research on the topic is deeply flawed and that no causal relationship has been found between video games and social violence. They argue that violent video games may reduce violence by serving as a substitute for rough and tumble play and by providing a safe outlet for aggressive and angry feelings.
Did You Know?
Sales of video games have more than quadrupled from 1995-2008, while the arrest rate for juvenile murders fell 71.9% and the arrest rate for all juvenile violent crimes declined 49.3% in this same period.
The 2008 study Grand Theft Childhood reported that 60% of middle school boys that played at least one Mature-rated game hit or beat up someone, compared to 39% of boys that did not play Mature-rated games.
California passed a law in 2005 that would have required violent video games to include an "18" label and criminalized the sale of these games to minors. On June 27, 2011, the US Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in Brown vs. Entertainment Merchants Association (485 KB) that the law violated free speech rights.
Following the controversy involving hidden sexually explicit content in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, then-Senator of New York Hillary Clinton introduced a bill in 2005 to criminalize selling "Mature" or "Adults Only" rated video games to minors, arguing that video games were a "silent epidemic of desensitization." The Family Entertainment Protection Act was referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation and expired at the end of the 109th Congress without becoming law.
In 2008, 298.2 million video games were sold in the US, totaling $11.7 billion in revenue. Six of the top ten best-selling video games included violence, with four of the games carrying a "Mature" rating recommended for persons aged 17 and older.
PRO Contribute to Youth Violence
Increasing reports of bullying can be partially attributed to the popularity of violent video games. The 2008 study Grand Theft Childhood reported that 60% of middle school boys who played at least one Mature-rated game hit or beat up someone, compared to 39% of boys that did not play Mature-rated games. 
Video games often reward players for simulating violence, and thus enhance the learning of violent behaviors. Studies suggest that when violence is rewarded in video games, players exhibit increased aggressive behavior (112 KB) compared to players of video games where violence is punished.
Violent video games desensitize players to real-life violence. It is common for victims in video games to disappear off screen when they are killed or for players to have multiple lives. In a 2005 study, violent video game exposure has been linked to reduced P300 amplitudes in the brain (275 KB) , which is associated with desensitization to violence and increases in aggressive behavior.
A 2000 FBI report (187 KB) includes playing violent video games in a list of behaviors associated with school shootings.
Violent video games teach youth that violence is an acceptable conflict-solving strategy (193 KB) and an appropriate way to achieve one's goals. A 2009 study found that youth who play violent video games have lower belief in the use of nonviolent strategies and are less forgiving than players of nonviolent video games.
Violent video games cause players to associate pleasure and happiness with the ability to cause pain in others. 
Young children are more likely to confuse fantasy violence with real world violence, and without a framework for ethical decision making, they may mimic the actions they see in violent video games. 
Violent video games require active participation, repetition, and identification with the violent character. With new game controllers allowing more physical interaction, the immersive and interactive characteristics of video games can increase the likelihood of youth violence. 
Playing violent video games increases aggressive behavior and arousal (162 KB) . A 2009 study found that it takes up to four minutes for the level of aggressive thoughts and feelings in children to return to normal after playing violent video games. It takes five to ten minutes for heart rate and aggressive behavior to return to baseline. Video games that show the most blood generate more aggressive thoughts. When blood is present in video games, there is a measurable increase in arousal and hostility (144 KB) .
Playing violent video games causes the development of aggressive behavioral scripts (141 KB) . A behavioral script is developed from the repetition of actions and affects the subconscious mind. An example of a common behavioral script is a driving script that tells drivers to get in a vehicle, put on a seat belt, and turn on the ignition. Similarly, violent video games can lead to scripts that tell youth to respond aggressively in certain situations. Violence in video games may lead to real world violence when scripts are automatically triggered in daily life, such as being nudged in a school hallway.
A 1998 study found that 21% of games sampled involved violence against women (165 KB) . Exposure to sexual violence in video games is linked to increases in violence towards women and false attitudes about rape (47 KB) such as that women incite men to rape or that women secretly desire rape.
Several studies in both the United States and Japan have shown that, controlling for prior aggression, children who played more violent video games during the beginning of the school year showed more aggression than their peers (288 KB) later in the school year.
Exposure to violent video games is linked to lower empathy in players (192 KB) . In a 2004 study of 150 fourth and fifth graders by Professor Jeanne Funk, violent video games were the only type of media associated with lower empathy. Empathy, the ability to understand and enter into another's feelings, plays an important role in the process of moral evaluation and is believed to inhibit aggressive behavior.
When youth view violence in video games, they are more likely to fear becoming a victim of acts of violence. According to a 2000 joint statement by six leading national medical associations including the American Medical Association and American Psychological Association, this escalated fear results in youth not trusting others and taking violent self-protective measures (103 KB) .
Violent video games can train youth to be killers. The US Marine Corps licensed Doom II in 1996 to create Marine Doom in order to train soldiers. In 2002, the US Army released first-person shooter America's Army to recruit soldiers and prepare recruits for the battlefield. 
CON Contribute to Youth Violence
Violent juvenile crime in the United States has been declining as violent video game popularity has increased. The arrest rate for juvenile murders has fallen 71.9% between 1995 and 2008. The arrest rate for all juvenile violent crimes has declined 49.3%. In this same period, video game sales have more than quadrupled.  
A causal link between violent video games and violent behavior has not been proven (112 KB) . Many studies suffer from design flaws and use unreliable measures of violence and aggression such as noise blast tests. Thoughts about aggression have been confused with aggressive behavior, and there is a lack of studies that follow children over long periods of time.
A 2004 US Secret Service review of previous school-based attacks found that one-eighth of attackers exhibited an interest in violent video games, less than the rate of interest attackers showed in violent movies, books, and violence in their own writings (1.6 MB) . The report did not find a relationship between playing violent video games and school shootings.
The small correlations that have been found between video games and violence may be explained by violent youth being drawn to violent video games. Violent games do not cause youth to be violent. Instead, youth that are predisposed to be violent seek out violent entertainment such as video games.
Playing violent video games reduces violence in adolescent boys by serving as a substitute for rough and tumble play (115 KB) . Playing violent video games allows adolescent boys to express aggression and establish status in the peer group without causing physical harm.
Video game players understand they are playing a game. Their ability to distinguish between fantasy and reality prevents them from emulating video game violence in real life. 
Playing violent video games provides a safe outlet for aggressive and angry feelings. A 2007 study (261 KB) reported that 45% of boys played video games because "it helps me get my anger out" and 62% played because it "helps me relax."
Violent video games provide healthy and safe opportunities for children to virtually explore rules and consequences of violent actions. Violent games also allow youth to experiment with issues such as war, violence and death (211 KB) without real world consequences.
The level of control granted to video game players, especially in terms of pace and directing the actions of their character, allows youth to regulate their emotional state during play (601 KB) . Research shows that a perception of being in control reduces emotional and stressful responses to events.
Alarmist claims similar to current arguments against violent video games have been made in the past when new media such as radio, movies, and television have been introduced. Claims that these various mediums would result in surges in youth violence also failed to materialize.
Violent video games may affect the form of violence (191 KB) , but does not cause the violence to occur. Youth might model violent acts on what they have seen in video games, but the violence would still occur in the absence of video games.
Exposure to violent video games has not been shown to be predictive of violent behavior or crime. Any link found between video games and violence is best explained by other variables such as exposure to family violence and aggressive personality. 
When research does show that violent video games cause more arousal and aggression, it is because the comparative game is less exciting (286 KB) . A short-term increase in arousal and aggression does not mean a child is going to leave his or her house and commit a violent act.
In 2005, the US had 2,279 murders committed by teenagers (27.9 per million residents) compared to 73 in Japan (3.1 per million). Per capita video game sales were $5.20 in the US compared to $47 in Japan. This example illustrates that there is no correlation between violent behavior and playing video games.   
Are social networking sites good for our society?
The popularity of social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Classmates.com more than quadrupled from 2005 to 2009. Many users say the sites are good for our society, but others contend that the dangers of social media outweigh the benefits.
Proponents of social networking sites argue that these online communities promote increased communication with friends and family, familiarize people with valuable computer skills, and allow contact with people from around the world.
Opponents argue that social networking sites expose children to predators, increase vulnerability to computer viruses, lower worker productivity, and promote narcissism and short attention spans.
Did You Know?
43% of online sexual solicitors were identified as being adolescents (under 18), 30% were adults between the ages of 18 and 21, and 9% were adults over the age of 21 (as of Dec. 31, 2008).
Social networking and blogging sites accounted for 17% (about one in every six minutes) of all time spent on the Internet (180 KB)  in Aug. 2009, nearly three times as much as in 2008.
Twitter was so important to the Iranian protests after the Iranian presidential election in June 2009 that the US State Department asked Twitter to delay a scheduled network upgrade that would have taken the website offline at a busy time of day in Iran. Twitter complied and rescheduled the downtime to 1:30 am Tehran time.
On Nov. 3, 2008, the day before the US presidential election, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama had 2,379,102 Facebook supporters while Republican candidate John McCain had 620,359. Obama had 833,161 MySpace friends and McCain had 217,811. Obama had 384% more Facebook supporters and 383% more MySpace friends than McCain.
Russians spend more time on social networking sites than people in any other country, an average of 6.6 hours per month compared to the worldwide average of 3.7 hours per month.
Pro & Con Arguments: "Are social networking sites good for our society?"
PRO Social Networking Sites
Social networking sites allow people to create new relationships and reconnect with friends and family. Increased communication, even online, strengthens relationships.
Social networking sites allow for creative expression in a new medium. They provide free messaging, blogging, photo storage, games, event invitations, and many other services to anyone with access to a computer and the Internet.
Social networking sites bring people with common interests together, offer exposure to new ideas from around the world, and lower inhibitions to overcome social anxiety. People who have a difficulty communicating in person are more comfortable interacting via the Internet.
60 million Americans received help with major life issues (975 KB)  (changing jobs, finding a new place to live, buying a car, and caring for someone with an illness) from people in their social networks in 2006. These people said social networking sites helped them connect with friends and experts who assisted in their decisions.
59% of students with access to the Internet (950 KB)  report that they use social networking sites to discuss educational topics including career and college planning, and 50% use the sites to talk about school assignments. Some parents and teachers say that using these sites helps students improve their reading, writing, and conflict resolution skills, learn to express themselves more clearly, and meet new and different kinds of students from around the world. 
Social media helps low-income kids become more familiar with computers and related technology. One study showed that nearly three quarters of children from poor households have profiles on MySpace or Facebook. By using these websites, they have learned how to edit and upload photos and videos, and have become experienced in using html code to personalize their profile pages. 
Studies have shown that being part of a social network has a positive impact, including increased quality of life and a reduction in the risk of health problems. They help improve stroke recovery, memory retention, and overall well-being. 
Internet users have larger social networks than non-users, and using social networking sites to maintain those relationships facilitates more face-to-face interaction. Internet users are augmenting their offline social networks, not replacing them. 
Social media can be a powerful tool for social change and an alternative to more traditional methods of communication. During the protests of the Iranian election in June 2009, protestors used Twitter to circumvent government control over phones and the media. Twitter was so important that the US State Department asked Twitter to delay a network upgrade that would have taken the website offline at a busy time of day in Iran. Twitter complied and rescheduled the downtime to 1:30 am Tehran time. The ability to remain anonymous helped protect people who were spreading information in real time.
To make social networking sites safer for children, the sites have minimum age requirements and default settings based on the user's age to protect children. MySpace, for example, requires users to be at least 14 years old, and the profiles of all users under the age of 16 are automatically set to "private" so they cannot be found during a general search.
Social media sites are expanding from general interest to more specific uses that benefit society. For example, sites have been created for medical purposes such as dealing with life altering diseases, alcoholism, drug addiction, weight loss, and autism. Social networking sites with a specific focus help introduce people to others who are dealing with similar issues and provide information, contacts, peer support, and encouragement.
CON Social Networking Sites
Social networking sites entice people to spend more time online and less time interacting face-to-face. The sites offer many time wasting activities that supplant more productive activities. Teens spend an average of nine hours per week on social networking sites (950 KB) . 
Teens growing up with these sites may not be aware that the information they post is public and that photos and text can be retrieved even after deletion. Consequences from over-sharing personal information include vulnerability to sexual or financial predators and lost job opportunities from employers finding embarrassing photos or comments.
Social networking sites have no way to verify that people are who they claim to be, leaving people vulnerable to solicitations from online predators who are able to mask their true identities. In Feb. 2009, MySpace identified 90,000 registered sex offenders with profiles on the site, while Facebook declined to reveal how many were present on its site. Even if the sites agree to remove sex offenders, they cannot identify all of them or stop them from creating new accounts. 
Social networking sites make cyberbullying, a type of bullying that occurs online, easier and more public than bullying through other online activities such as email and instant messaging. A 2009 study found that 17.3% of middle school students have been victims of cyberbullying.  Victims often experience a drop in grades, decreased self-esteem, and other symptoms of depression. 
The US Marine Corps banned the use of all social media sites on its networks because the sites are "a proven haven for malicious actors and content and are particularly high risk due to information exposure, user generated content and targeting by adversaries."  The entire Department of Defense is considering a ban on social networking sites because of concerns over security threats and potential computer viruses.
The use of social networking sites can cause personality and brain disorders in children, such as the inability to have real conversations, limited attention spans, a need for instant gratification, Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and self-centered personalities. The fast pace of the sites may rewire the brain with repeated exposure because parts of the brain used for traditional, offline activities become underused. 
The hours per day of face-to-face socializing have declined as the use of social media has increased. People who use these sites frequently are prone to social isolation. Parents spend less time with their children and couples spend less time together even when they live in the same house, because they are using the Internet instead of interacting with each other. 
A 2007 study found that workers using Facebook in the office were costing Australian businesses up to $4.5 billion (US) per year.  A Feb. 2009 report stated that social networking sites were costing UK businesses an estimated $12.5 billion (US) annually.  Numbers for lost revenue from lower worker productivity when employees use social networking sites in the US are not available, but one study found that two-thirds of US workers with Facebook accounts access that site during work hours. 
A false sense of security may leave social networking site users vulnerable to security attacks such as hacking, leaking sensitive information, and sending viruses. People trust messages sent through social networking sites and consider them more legitimate than emails. However, social networks do not scan messages for viruses or phishing scams, while most email accounts do scan the messages for spam and viruses through antivirus software.
The public nature of online profiles creates security risks about which most users are unaware. Cybercriminals can gather information to be used for identity theft from social networking profiles, such as birthdays, pet names, mothers' maiden names, names of children, and other details often used in passwords and security questions. Offline crime may result from posting personal information, like home robberies committed after a person announces vacation plans and alerts criminals when the home will be left unattended.
Social networking sites were created to make money, not to improve peoples' lives. These websites use networks of online friends to accumulate data about people for the purpose of selling advertising. The sites place cookies on the users' computers, gather information, and track interests to show personalized ads. These advertising practices may constitute an invasion of privacy.