Children who watch gun violence on television are more likely than those who don’t to pull the triggers on handguns, according to a new study exploring how the U.S. gun culture influences young people.
Researchers at Ohio State University showed one group of children a video with gun violence and a second group a video without images of guns or people using them. They then observed the children in a room where a real but disabled pistol was stored in a cabinet.
Those who had watched the violent film held the gun longer and pulled the trigger more times than children who had watched the video without guns.
The study was published Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, and an accompanying editorial explained that the study’s design had undergone several iterations before testing to ensure the most rigorous scientific procedures.
The editorial noted that the U.S. population owns more guns per capita than any other country in the world, that more people die from guns in the U.S. than any other country, that at least seven children and adolescents die every day in the U.S. from gun violence and that media violence is pervasive.
“The last time a comprehensive review of movies was done, 100% of G-rated films contained violence,” wrote Drs. Dimitri Christakis and Frederick Rivara, both child development researchers in Seattle. “That assessment, made in 2000, surely underestimates the situation today given the increase in media violence and the advent of newer forms, including virtual and augmented reality games as well as social media posts of real-world violence.”
Researchers Kelly Dillon and Brad Bushman sought to emphasize that 60 percent of households with guns don’t secure them.
“Most unintentional gun shootings happen at home, typically as a result of children playing with a loaded, unlocked gun,” they wrote in the study. “Children in the United States are 10 times more likely to die by unintentional gun shootings than children from other developed countries.”
The study’s authors and the editorial writers acknowledged the difficulty in trying to change gun laws or reduce violence in media, but said increased awareness and education about proper storage and securing guns in households could help decrease the number of accidental deaths.
For the study, Ms. Dillon and Mr. Bushman put 52 children in a room to watch a 20-minute movie showing gun violence. Another 52 children watched a movie with no gun violence.
The children later were brought to a room and told they could play with the toys in an unlocked cabinet. In addition to the toys — which included building blocks, nerf guns, board games — was a 0.38-caliber handgun, modified so it wouldn’t fire. A sensor on the gun monitored how often the trigger was pulled with force.
The researchers found that the children who watched the film with gun violence pulled the trigger 2.8 times. The children who didn’t see gun violence pulled the trigger 0.01 times.
Those who saw the movie with guns held the real gun for an average of 53.1 seconds, while the control group held it for an average of 11.1 seconds.
“Children in the United States frequently have access to unsecured firearms and frequently consume media containing guns. This experiment shows that children who see movie characters use guns are more likely to use guns themselves,” Ms. Dillon and Mr. Bushman concluded.
Sources: Washington Times