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Editorial: Is violent pop culture bad for us? Of course

Video game boxes video game store Miami 2011.  |  JOE RAEDLE~GETTY IMAGES

Video game boxes at a video game store in Miami in 2011. | JOE RAEDLE~GETTY IMAGES

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Updated: March 20, 2013 6:25AM

Can we acknowledge a simple fact? All those violent TV shows, movies, music and video games do make a difference. And not a positive one.

We don’t agree with people who want to use the entertainment world’s prevalent virtual violence as an excuse to do nothing about the deplorable real-life gun violence that haunts us as a nation.

Neither do we agree with people whose answer is to censor anything they find objectionable. That doesn’t work in a free society.

But we can keep pushing for everyone in the entertainment industry to avoid going overboard with depictions of violence and for the rest of us to limit how much of that we allow ourselves and our children to experience on a daily basis.

All those virtual shootings, all that virtual blood that Americans — particularly children — experience via LED screens or ear buds does affect how we see the world and interact with each other. Shelves and shelves of studies have found that children exposed to violent images, music and games are more likely to view violence as a way to settle conflicts, are less sensitive to violence in real life, are more mistrustful of a world they see as a violent place and have a higher tendency toward violent and aggressive behavior later in life. Even adults report that frightening TV shows or movies can disturb their sleep or appetites years after they view them.

Most recently, a study of 565 Seattle parents published online Monday in the journal Pediatrics found that teaching parents to switch preschoolers’ viewing from violent to educational TV shows can improve the children’s behavior.

The differences were small and faded over time, but the study reminds us, once again, that there’s a price to pay for excessive immersion in a world of entertainment violence.

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