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Are Internet-Addicted Kids More Violent?

Taiwanese study say yes, but American experts aren't so sure

MONDAY, Feb. 23 (HealthDay News) -- A new study from Taiwan links aggression in teens to heavy Internet use, but its findings are being questioned by some American researchers.

The research, based on questionnaires about Internet use and behavior filled out by 9,405 adolescents, classified 25 percent of the boys and 13 percent of the girls as Internet addicts.

Of that group of Internet addicts, 37 percent reported showing aggression, such as threatening or harming others, in the past year -- compared with 13 percent of the girls and 32 percent of the boys overall.

The research team, from Kaohsiung Medical University in Taiwan, wrote that Internet activities could provide opportunities for young people to "observe, experience and try aggressive behaviors resulting in positive outcome, [such as] identification in a group, being a hero or winning in games." Their study appears online in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

However, American researchers who have studied violence in society have a bone to pick with that finding.

Though earlier research has tied the playing of violent video games to increasingly aggressive thoughts and acts, the Taiwanese study "does not demonstrate that one behavior caused the other," Dewey Cornell, a professor of education at the University of Virginia, said in a news release issued by the journal.

Another U.S. professor noted that the study failed to answer a basic chicken-and-egg question.

"It could be that using the Internet causes people to behave more aggressively, or it could be that aggressive people seek out the Internet," University of Michigan psychology professor Brad Bushman said in the same news release. "Or some other third factor could cause both: People with poor social skills don't have any friends, so they spend a lot of time on the Internet and can't resolve conflicts in non-aggressive ways."

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about preventing youth violence .

-- Kevin McKeever

SOURCE: Journal of Adolescent Health, news release, Feb. 23, 2009

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