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Bill Seeks Study of Violent Video Games After Shootings

The U.S. National Academy of Sciences would investigate how violent video games and programs affect children under a bill introduced in Congress in the wake of the deadly school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

The measure from Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, responds to the Dec. 14 killing of 20 children and six adults.

“Major corporations, including the video game industry, make billions on marketing and selling violent content to children,” Rockefeller said in an e-mailed statement. “They have a responsibility to protect our children. If they do not, you can count on the Congress to take a more aggressive role.”

Under the measure, the National Academy of Sciences, a Washington-based nonprofit organization that advises the government on science policy, would study whether violent video games and programs cause children to act aggressively, according to a news release from Rockefeller’s office.

The measure also calls on the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and and Federal Communications Commission, which have studied video games in the past, to expand their work.

“We need to gather the scientific evidence to better determine what impacts immersive shoot-em-up interactive games have shaping the psycho-social development of our children, including whether they become desensitized to violence,” Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, a Washington-based group, said in an e-mail.

‘Vivid’ Violence

The National Academy of Sciences would examine “whether current or emerging aspects of games, like their interactive nature and the personal and vivid way violence is portrayed, have a unique impact on kids,” according to the news release from Rockefeller’s office.

The academy would submit a report on its investigation within 18 months to Congress, the FTC and FCC.

“While to date we’ve seen studies that touch on the correlation between video-game violence and aggression, more conclusive research from objective sources is desperately needed to fully understand these effects,” said James Steyer, chief executive officer and founder of Common Sense Media, a San Francisco-based nonprofit advocacy group focused on children and media.

This is needed “especially as the video game industry continues to market this content to young children during daytime TV and other family viewing times,” Steyer said in an e-mail.

The Entertainment Software Association, which represents companies that publish computer and video games, said the industry “mourns the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School” and extends its condolences to the Newtown community.

“The search for meaningful solutions must consider the broad range of actual factors that may have contributed to this tragedy,” the Washington-based group said in an e-mailed statement. “Any such study needs to include the years of extensive research that has shown no connection between entertainment and real-life violence.”

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