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.

Filed Under: mehmet oz, mike roizen, video games, violence, violent video games


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  1. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
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    out_of_the_blue, 11 Jun 2013 @ 6:50am

    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.

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