Most Teens Play Violent Video Games, Study Says

Tuesday, September 16, 2003; 2:32 PM

By Ben Berkowitz

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - More than 70 percent of American teenage boys have played the violent but popular "Grand Theft Auto" video games, and they are more likely to have been in a fight than those who have not played, according to a new Gallup company poll released on Tuesday.

Although the study showed twice as many boys who had played the criminal adventure game reported having been in a fight in the last year, the survey's authors cautioned that did not prove a link between game violence and real-life behavior.

The Gallup Poll Tuesday Briefing found in an online survey of 517 teenagers aged 13 to 17 conducted in August that 71 percent of boys in that age group have played "GTA," along with 34 percent of girls.

"Grand Theft Auto 3" was the best-selling video game of 2001, and "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City" topped the charts in 2002. They have been decried by parents and lawmakers, among others, for depictions of graphic violence against women, law enforcement officers and the elderly.

Both games, published by Take-Two Interactive Software Inc., carry "Mature" ratings from the Entertainment Software Rating Board, meaning they are not intended for persons under age 17.

The survey found that 34 percent of boys who admitted to being in a physical fight over the last year have played "GTA," while 17 percent who were in a fight have not played the game.

The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

"The data can't demonstrate causality -- boys who are more prone to fighting may simply be more attracted to violent video games," the Gallup editors said.

"With regard to the likelihood to have been in a physical fight in the last year, the difference between those who have played and not played is greater for Grand Theft Auto than for any of the other games asked about," they said.

The poll found that 62 percent of teenagers play games at least one hour a week, while 25 percent play six or more hours per week. More than one-third of those surveyed reported spending no time playing video games.

"As a parent, I absolutely did expect what we found, that games are a big part of kids' lives," Frank Newport, the poll's editor-in-chief, told Reuters.

2003 Reuters