Dr. Oz Claims Violent Video Games 'Hurt' Teens; Backs Up Claims With Absolutely Nothing At All

from the Wii-Sports-awarded-custody-of-teens-after-years-of-abuse-by-CoD dept

You know what people just absolutely love? When someone makes bold proclamations and then dances off into the ether without providing a single supporting source for their statements. You’d think someone highly touted in the medical community would at least be able to provide a link or a searchable source for something as brash as this, but from the looks of it, you’d be the only one thinking.

Via Gamepolitics comes this delightfully horrible column, written by Dr. Mehmet Oz (TV’s “Dr. Oz”) and his colleague, Dr. Mike Roizen (chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute). Its title makes an unequivocal statement before moving on at a breakneck pace to its conclusion, utilizing a combination of unsourced stats and unproven conjecture.

Here’s the title:

It’s official (again)- violent video games hurt teens

A quick read through the column (and it is a quick read) shows that Oz and Roizen aren’t too keen on providing any sort of backup for this claim (much less the fact that it’s “again”). Nowhere in the 300 words or so will you find links, quotes or citations of any sort. Here’s the opening paragraph, which gives readers some insight into the doctors’ mindset, but not much else.

Call of Duty: Black Ops (dismembered limbs, obscene language, torture) and Hitman: Absolution (can you really absolve a hit man?) — $13.6 billion is spent annually in North America so that more than 210 million folks can play video games like these. Many of those players are younger than 18, and that’s, you know, way bad for kids and teens.

No. I don’t know. Perhaps if you could point me to some research (preferably nothing by Craig Anderson) that shows how video games are “way bad” for kids and teens. Also, a majority of the 210 million gamers are over the age of 18, which is who these games are targeted at (and rated for).

But let’s not dwell on the lack of evidence indicating games hurt teens (again) by “fueling aggressive behavior, dulling empathy and causing sleep problems.” (Parents: are your teens aggressive, self-centered and up all hours of the night? Welcome to Life with a Teenager, a.k.a. Why the Hell Did I Decide to Have Kids? Take away video games and I would imagine the hormonal developments, myopic worldview common to that age group and erratic sleep patterns wouldn’t be altered in any significant fashion.)

Let’s move on to the doctors’ next point, which is also dropped unceremoniously (and without sources) into the mix.

And if you think you know what’s going on with your kids, think again. Most parents say they’re pretty sure of what their kids are doing online, but 50 percent of kids report having inappropriate-age-rated games (“M” for “mature” and “AO” for “adults only”) among their often-played favorites.

And this “50 percent” was determined how? Rounding up the interns and asking them what percentage of a whole would they find both “scary” and “believable?” Who would dispute this “finding?” Who could dispute this “finding?” There’s nothing to work with.

It would be one thing if a psychologist made a few unsourced claims based on first-hand experience with the subject matter (kids, video games), but when a surgeon and a chief medical officer make bold statements about the effect of violent games on kids, they need to bring a little bit more to the discussion than a willingness to fill a column with words.

On the plus side, the doctors don’t take the government or retailers to task for kids’ access to M-rated games. (Though I wonder where these kids are getting “AO” games… Certainly not from any major retailer.) Instead, they ask parents to get involved and aim children towards other activities, rather than allowing the Xbox/PS3/Wii to fill in as full-time caregivers. This is the only part of the column that actually contains good advice and no ridiculous, unsourced statements.

Maybe this substance-free column is an offshoot of Dr. Oz’s love of homeopathy — the weaker the sources, the stronger the argument. No sources at all possibly means his proclamations are completely unassailable. Well played, sir.

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Comments on “Dr. Oz Claims Violent Video Games 'Hurt' Teens; Backs Up Claims With Absolutely Nothing At All”

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Rikuo (profile) says:

Okay. I’m going to admit something.
Before I was eighteen years old, I downloaded and played (for about ten minutes) Rapelay.
To this day, I have yet to even so much as feel up a minor.

I’ve also played the game Heavy Rain. There’s a part in the game where you make a choice to cut off the protagonist’s finger. Quite brutally I might add. There’s preparations to be done, like anti-septic, alcohol, etc, and then you do the deed.
Now I look at my real life hands. Yup. All eight fingers and two thumbs. Still intact.

PaulT (profile) says:

“Many of those players are younger than 18, and that’s, you know, way bad for kids and teens.”

I agree. That’s why parents should take responsibility for their kids’ gaming, especially since they’re often the ones buying the games for their kids in the first place. The ratings are there for a reason, and within the home nobody but the parents can enforce them.

Oh, that’s not what you meant, you just want to ride the scapegoat train and get some free publicity? Never mind.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

While I agree that it’s the parent’s job to approve of what games their kids are playing, I’m far from convinced that there is any special harm to children here. That’s as it should be: parents can make choices in line with their views.

The ratings are there for a reason

And that reason is 100% political. If the industry didn’t put their own ratings on the games, they would have faced legislation based on fear-mongering.

Nonetheless, the ratings do, in fact, give you an idea as to the content, and I am always in favor of being informed.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

He also happens to be one of the most skilled, experienced, and respected cardiothoractic surgeons in the nation. He is even still in active practice.

He’s far more than a fakey TV “doctor”. His love of homeopathy is difficult to understand, though — but doctors who are specialists are usually not the most informed when it comes to medicine outside of their specialty.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: And yet...

Those also existed before videogames.

Like long before.

And they were more prevalent as well.

I would argue they ARENT learned behaviors and some people are predisposed to lacking empathy or finding enjoyment in such things.

I wonder where Vlad the Impaler learned his behaviors?

gyffes (profile) says:

Re: And yet...


propagainment shows like 24 hammered into the sheep the concept that terrorism is SO bad that it’s OK to torture them if it saves us. Because, well, terrorism.

The worst thing one can say of Obama is he hasn’t closed Gitmo or sought repeal of the Patriot Acts. These Bush-era nightmares are blights on our collective soul (not the 90s-era band) and detract from our ability to wave our finger at the Chinese et al for THEIR human rights violations.

24 and shows of its ilk that justify (glamorize?) torture without repercussion are far more insidious — and widely viewed — than any video games.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: And yet...

The worst thing one can say of Obama is he hasn’t closed Gitmo or sought repeal of the Patriot Acts.

I don’t blame him for his failure to close gitmo. Congress has thwarted his every attempt, so that’s on them.

However, he has done much worse that simply fialing to seek the repeal of the Patriot Act. He has dramatically expanded the efforts of the government in terms of secrecy and spying.

That, in my opinion, is the worst thing you can say about him. And it’s damning.

Not an Electronic Rodent (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I’m curious where all the Doom, Wolfenstein 3D, Duke Nukem 3D and Quake killers are at

Right here and as soon as I find a castle full of steel doors or a futuristic place where I can walk through walls if I hit the right spot I will no doubt go totally postal and kill everyone in the place. Now where did I put that BFG9000……

out_of_the_blue says:

Ah, a minion back to Techdirt's anti-moral panics.

With the boilerplate insane assertion: I’ve never killed anyone, therefore violent video games are GOOD, not just neutral.

Sheerly as a practical matter, you don’t want violence promoted or normalized at all. It tips the TINY margin that separates civilized persons from savages. Morality has to be maintained constantly or it’s gone forever.

We see the practical effects in soldiers going off laying waste to a country that didn’t attack us, was no threat at all, killing and maiming foreigners just because someone told them to. You can’t make those people moral again: it’s ancient knowledge that war is to be avoided because it creates dangerous killers at home, not just abroad. They’re now in your gov’t agencies and police forces, and nearly every day Techdirt has an article about them running wild, trampling rights. It’s a direct connection. Just because one can’t put a number to it, doesn’t mean it’s not a real effect.

But denying obvious connections is a key goal here at Techdirt.

It’s so much easier to deny, to call anyone at all trying to do good a nutty moralist, out of touch, and so on. Savagery is the default state, and you kids never try to rise above it. But you expect others to be moral, hard-working, and provide you with goodies.

The definition of civilization IS morality. That doesn’t mean silly pious rituals, it means valuing life rather than killing, regarding other persons AS persons, not targets to be shot on sight. The civilization that you all claim to want must be maintained by constantly and consciously avoiding savagery.

You’ve just never grown up before — and at current rate, never will, have frozen at about 14 — so you’ve nothing to compare your inner state to, but it’s certain that wallowing in violence will corrupt even you.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Ah, a minion back to Techdirt's anti-moral panics.

More absolutism from OOTB.

Your definition of morality is not my definition of morality. I expect others to be moral in the same way I will be moral. But you don’t know what my definition of morality is so that’s moot.

Oh OOTB, your arguments are so facetious, pretend violence is as old as the ages and does not in any way prepare you for REAL violence.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Ah, a minion back to Techdirt's anti-moral panics.

“The definition of civilization IS morality. That doesn’t mean silly pious rituals, it means valuing life rather than killing, regarding other persons AS persons, not targets to be shot on sight. The civilization that you all claim to want must be maintained by constantly and consciously avoiding savagery.”

Throughout history, humans have fought against themselves. And even when they are not fighting, they invented games that pit one or more people against each other in a contest of physical strength, allowing more or less contact – usually for entertainment of onlookers.

In the past, Romans had Gladiator matches. Today, you have Soccer, Handball, American Football, etc. Savagery is part of who we are as humans. The key to keep civilization working it to maintain it under control enough to allow society to function.

Video games are just the next logical iteration.

Keroberos (profile) says:

Re: Ah, a minion back to Techdirt's anti-moral panics.

Just because one can’t put a number to it, doesn’t mean it’s not a real effect.

If you can’t put a number to it, that means you can’t measure it. This is how real science works–you have to test your hypothesis–and get real, verifiable, and repeatable, results. Until you can do that– then no, it’s not a real effect, it’s just bullshit speculation.

Alt0 says:

Re: Ah, a minion back to Techdirt's anti-moral panics.

I do not usually respond to the comments Blue makes.
However, making a comparison to Soldiers ACTUALLY taking life (and I do agree, without just cause in some cases) and someone playing a Video Game on a computer (PC/console makes no difference) is NOT at all the same.

I will demonstrate with a single point:

Even the kids do know the difference.

Anonymous Coward says:

Regardless of whether or not video games can trivially hurt a teen, bad parenting does far more hurt to a teen. Let’s tackle the problems based on effectiveness and start with banning and whatever else is necessary to prevent unqualified adults from becoming parents.

Based on time exposure, a parent is more instrumential to a child’s development than a teacher, so why is it teachers that are scrutinized and regulated than parents?

Anonymous Coward says:

There is no limb dismemberment in Call of Duty.

There is literally no way that a minor has a game rated AO as one of their “often-played favorites” because games rated AO just don’t really exist in any meaningful way.

Doctor Oz: listen to my big scary words, but pay no attention to the feckless moron behind the curtain.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“There is literally no way that a minor has a game rated AO as one of their “often-played favorites” because games rated AO just don’t really exist in any meaningful way”

No, look at the list!


See? How many times have you heard kids talk about Wet: the Sexy Empire? I try to get conversation turned back to Pokemon and Mario, but the damn kids keep talking about that game!


Keroberos (profile) says:

This is the problem you have with any expert–people (sometimes including the expert) assume expertise in one area auto magically translates into expertise in all/other areas–particularly since they’re very good at sounding like an expert even when they’re talking out of their ass. Dr. Oz may be a brilliant cardiothoracic surgeon, but that means squat when it come to psychology/psychiatry or any other field–in fact the very training/practice required of his specialty means that he’s probably less of an expert in areas that he’s not specialized in than a more generalized medical practitioner (doctors like House don’t really exist). This is one of the problems I have with Doctor shows Like Oz’s–they are giving medical advice in areas the have little ability in, and no one really calls them out for it.

If I needed heart surgery, would I want Dr. Oz to operate on me? You betcha. Would I go to him for cancer? Ehh…I’d probably find someone better qualified.

As for the original article? Dr. Mehmet Oz is a cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Mike Roizen is an anesthesiologist. This makes their official (again) opinion on the links between video games and teen violence rank just a little bit higher on the scale as any other two random schmucks.

TheLastCzarnian (profile) says:

How 'bout a prison study?

We already know that being non-religious does not cause criminal behavior, because less than 1% of prison inmates are non-religious, far less than the national 30% average. So how about a study of how many prison inmates played video games growing up? Anecdotally, the two people that I know who played video games the least also had the most run-ins with the law, but my sampling of 25 or so people is hardly significant.

Anonymous Coward says:

if violent video games promote violence, should we expect anything different from TV Police or crime programs? what about war films and Cowboys and Indians? what about space programs like Star Trek? funny how i dont see any fallout over these. is is just that Hollywood and the film industry has paid out more in bribes than the games industry? perhaps a table of ‘funding/lobbying payments’ would help? worth a try, Mike?

Anonymous Coward says:

I do think it is kind of funny that they think we are the dangerous people because we play games… They are the ones who can’t seem to see the difference between pixels and reality.

No, shooting pixels does not give us immunity towards violence. There is no suffering and no real death in videogames! type in the right command and the guy, you just shot, will live again… we know the difference, why don’t you mr. Oz? it is the equivalent of shooting a target on a range or a cardboard figure. There is nothing in there, no matter how realistic they make the graphics.
In real life you take that persons future away from him/her and you ruin that persons family as well… I can’t even bare the thought of hurting someone with my car in an accident; it would devastate me.

John85851 (profile) says:

But people who don't become violent don't make good stories

I would ask why people are still spouting the “violent video games hurt children”, but we know why: it makes for a good soundbite-story on the news. I love the part where they mention games rated AO. How many publishers actually make AO games? Isn’t that like giving a movie an NC-17 or NR rating, which results in no theaters showing the movie? Will Wal-Mart and other stores sell AO games? So if teens can’t get AO games, why bring this up? Oh, right, more scare tactics.

Where was this article published? I know the link goes to the oregonlive website, but what is that site’s criteria for publishing? Do they accept anything from a celebrity doctor, just to get the promotion? And no offense to the oregonlive website, but shouldn’t a column like this *by Dr Oz* be published in a medical journal? Oh, right- it can’t be published because there’s no argument being debated, no evidence, and no statistics.

And, as has been pointed out numerous times, what about the millions of people who play these games and DON’T become violent? Oh, right, that’s a not a good story. Headline: Halo 4 Sells Millions of Copies in 24 Hours, No Violence Occurs.
Then again, when was the last time the media reported on a story such as “I-75 traffic good, no accidents today” or “200 airplanes took off from JFK today and reached their destination without any problems”.

special-interesting (profile) says:

Dr Oz is credited with several medical firsts. Probably the most civilly valuable is the medical collaboration examination open to the public. (MCEOP) This is the collection of many specialist doctors that examine and diagnose the fears/symptoms of everyday/distressed/homeless people.

Such an incredibly difficult and far reaching effort is hard to criticize.

Also considering how expensive and special such a gathering of medical specialists is there is so much to be appreciative of. Such an effort paid for by an individual would cost many thousands of dollars. (Many! As in +6000)

This is the same basic concept that is used when a patient is brought unconscious to the hospital. (and has insurance)

He did/arranged this for free. This type of effort needs to be duplicated in every town and metropolis!

Keeping in ming that this does not apply to other disciplines… -claps and cheers- (wildly)


Message to any who play violent/destructive games. Build and not destroy. Create and not dismantle. Prolong life and not kill.

Do you think thats hard? (good/great.) Great! Welcome to life. Its so very (verrrrry) much harder to create/build things than to destroy them.


Dr. Oz promotes natural and organic alternatives to big pharma. Wow that has to be professionally difficult considering the pharma based lunch time sales incentive that big pharma can afford.

Do not expect Dr. Oz to be correct in every instance. Such is common knowledge progress. As a society we grow in spite of the snake oil claims of big pharma.

Is there controversy about some diet/exercise program? So what! Old hat. Eat what your intelligence says is good, Exercise more than you think is necessary (everyday). [kick]

Personal motive; live longer than the rest of the idiots. Please.

-More claps and cheers.-

Did Dr Oz make a mistake when talking about violent based role playing games? Maybe.

In such an analysis we are entering the realm of psychology. An area that even psychologists do not know. Except when talking about power and pride psychology will always be a mystery.

Humanity (in general) is undecipherable. Especially when talking about ?tendencies?.


Its bad when we enjoy killing. Yes. Even in a game. EA, Doom and others have a lot to learn. (and so do we)


What we really need is a game where we create/discover/spawn individual greatness. (incredible metaphorical explosion)

Go for it! In the name of greatness. Please develop a game that explores the greatness of civilization and does not DRM it to death. (Foot in EA/other ass.) (pay me)


Is Dr, Oz wrong about video game violence? Maybe. Is he right? Maybe. Its a gray area. A good controversy.

Morality? What a concept. How do we grow up without enslaving the rest who do not? Compassion and love? Embrace me.


What are game slayings? In reality we need to ‘slay’ our thoughts. Thoughts are desires. A desire is a want for (example food like Wendy’s) a material thing. We typically WANT desires in the animal way that we are humans.



Bad parenting is no excuse for bad government.

Niall (profile) says:

Re: Re:

What if ‘fake’ killing is a good safety valve? What if we learn about real issues by playing instead of doing? Did everyone in the pre-video games generations who played cops ‘n’ robbers, cowboys and indians, and war against germans go out and kill as well? Those were ‘violent’ gratuitous.

If no-one knows about psychology, not even the psychologists”, then Dr Oz should butt out and only talk on stuff he’s good at. Or, if he feels he should weigh in (and interest should be respected) then he should actually quote some science, not make bullshit assertions.

What if someone announced that 95% of all cardiothoracic surgeons leave instruments in their patients? Without any figures/studies or any kind of appropriate standing, would that person be taken seriously? I’m sure Dr Oz would react ith indignation at least to any (unsupported) suggestion that “being an X surgeon means he leaves instruments in his patients”. So he should return the professional courtesy.

special-interesting (profile) says:


You bring up some good augments.

?What if ‘fake’ killing is a good safety valve?? What a great human emotional psychological concept. Many people read Fantasy, Horror, Action and War fiction books for release, excitement and adventure. There is no way to deny that Video Games might perform the same human psychological function.

?What if we learn about real issues by playing instead of doing?? Another good point. The plot of Video Games is an important intellectual component providing many opportunities for the player to learn about life, politics, technology, geography, historical-events/history and more. It has the ability to do this without a (boring bully infested) classroom.

?Did everyone in the pre-video games generations who played cops ‘n’ robbers, cowboys and indians, and war against germans go out and kill as well? Those were ‘violent’ gratuitous.? A good point/example.

Dr. Oz; However wrong in his opinion… still gets to have his opinion.

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