Trump’s Video Game Violence Theory Is Not Supported by the Supreme Court or Researchers
Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Donald Trump says he believes video games are having a negative impact on the nation’s youth—and suggested “something” needed to be done about them.
The comments made during a White House meeting on school safety Thursday come in the wake of the fatal shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. Trump took aim at both the gaming and movie industries, suggesting a rating system might be needed (despite the fact that both already have such systems in place).
“We have to look at the Internet because a lot of bad things are happening to young kids and young minds and their minds are being formed, and we have to do something about maybe what they’re seeing and how they’re seeing it,” Trump said. “And also video games. I’m hearing more and more people say the level of violence on video games is really shaping young people’s thoughts. And you go the further step, and that’s the movies. You see these movies, and they’re so violent. And yet a kid is able to see the movie if sex isn’t involved, but killing is involved, and maybe they have to put a rating system for that.”
The Entertainment Software Association, the trade group for the video game industry, declined to comment on Trump’s theory.
Trump’s suggestions echo back to the early 2000s, when activists often looked to blame video games and films after a national tragedy. The furor escalated to the point that California attempted to restrict the sale of violent video games to children in 2005. The Supreme Court struck down that law in 2011.
“Video games qualify for First Amendment protection,” the Court said in its ruling, written by Justice Antonin Scalia. “Like protected books, plays, and movies, they communicate ideas through familiar literary devices and features distinctive to the medium. And the basic principles of freedom of speech…do not vary with a new and different communication medium.”
The ruling also directly addressed criticisms that being exposed to violence in games was harmful for children.
“California relies primarily on the research of Dr. Craig Anderson and a few other research psychologists whose studies purport to show a connection between exposure to violent video games and harmful effects on children,” wrote Scalia. “These studies have been rejected by every court to consider them, and with good reason: They do not prove that violent video games cause minors to act aggressively.”
The NRA, after the horrific events at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., took a similar tact, with executive vice president Wayne LaPierre pointing to mature-rated games like Grand Theft Auto. Experts, though, dismissed the link then as well.
Chris Ferguson, a professor of psychology and criminal justice at Texas A&M, said, “As a video game violence researcher and someone who has done scholarship on mass homicides, let me state very emphatically: There is no good evidence that video games or other media contributes, even in a small way, to mass homicides or any other violence among youth.”