One Year After Newtown, Calls for Research on the Effects of Media Violence Have Gone Nowhere

Join Common Sense Media in urging Congress to pass the Violent Content Research Act By Jim Steyer
One Year After Newtown, Calls for Research on the Effects of Media Violence Have Gone Nowhere

I wanted to share the letter I sent to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell today calling for the quick passing of the Violent Content Research Act of 2013. Current research on media violence is woefully out of date and incomplete, and, after a year of inaction on gun violence, passing this bill and ensuring further study is an easy first step for Congress to take. We recognize that gun violence is a highly complex issue comprising multiple factors, such as access to guns and mental health services, but we have an obligation to explore whether violent media content is a contributing factor.

Dear Senators Reid and McConnell,

We respectfully urge your leadership in working together in a bipartisan spirit to immediately pass a bill that will ensure much needed research on the impact of violent video games and violent video programming on children.  In July, the Senate Commerce Committee unanimously passed S. 134, the Violent Content Research Act of 2013, introduced by Senator John D. Rockefeller and co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of Senators.  Before adjourning this year, the Senate should pass this bill and send it to the House.

It’s been a year since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, in which a gunman stormed an elementary school and killed twenty children and six staff members, making it the second deadliest shooting in American history.  We may never know why the shooter did what he did, but we must work together to explore every possible avenue to protect our children and prevent further gun violence.

When this national tragedy occurred, the President called on Congress to pass gun control legislation – and to support research into the effects violent video games have on young minds.  As President Obama declared, “We don’t benefit from ignorance.  We don’t benefit from not knowing the science of this epidemic of violence.”

Yet we don’t know any more now than we did then.  S. 134 would direct the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a comprehensive study and investigation that focuses on whether there is a connection between exposure to violent video games or video programming and harmful effects on children.  After a year of inaction on gun violence, passing this bill and ensuring further study is an easy first step for Congress to take.

All we want are the objective facts so that policymakers, industry leaders, and parents can make well-informed decisions.  To their credit, many in the entertainment industry support more research.  Yet astoundingly, some organizations, such as the Entertainment Software Association, are on record opposing this bill.  We cannot let the financial interests of the gaming industry and other special interest groups prevent us from conducting sorely needed research in developmental psychology.

In February, Common Sense Media released Media and Violence:  An Analysis of Current Research, which reviewed the latest scientific research about violence in media and its possible effects on aggressive behavior in children and teens.  This research brief highlights several critical gaps in current research and offers some thoughts on promising new areas of study.  (See

Also at the beginning of this year Common Sense Media, in collaboration with the Center for American Progress, commissioned a nationwide survey of 1,050 parents about their attitudes toward media violence.  The survey found that the vast majority of parents are concerned:

  • 77% of parents believe media violence, such as content in TV, movies, and video games, contributes to America's culture of violence;
  • 89% of parents said violence in today’s video games is a problem;
  • 75% of parents said shielding children from violence is difficult; and
  • 88% of parents want ads for violent games, movies, and TV shows to be prevented from airing during programs viewed by large audiences of children.

We fully recognize that gun violence is a highly complex issue and that multiple factors, such as access to guns and mental health services, may underpin acts of violence.  We are not saying that violence in entertainment media is the sole cause of the culture of violence in America.  But don’t we have an obligation to explore whether violent media content is a contributing factor?

Your bipartisan leadership is critical in supporting unbiased scientific research and letting the families of the Sandy Hook victims know that we aren’t forgetting them. 

Sincerely yours,

James P. Steyer
Founder and CEO
Common Sense Media

About Jim Steyer

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Jim is Common Sense Media's CEO and founder -- read all about him here. Read more

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Comments (9)

Adult written by num1snook

MEDIA IS NOT THE CAUSE OF SHOOTINGS!!!! Get that through your head people! It's how easy it is to get a gun! Most people who are the shooters have problems or have gotten bullied in their life! Stop bullying and make the gun laws better and this will stop! Honestly! Media isn't the problem! Other people are the problem! We need to parent better and teach our children to be good people!
Teen, 15 years old written by BluPyro44

Why is it that every time a tragedy happens, CSM jumps the the bandwagon that "Video Games are the cause of the shooting!" Seriously, stop using the same old scapegoat and advance your own agenda. There is a reason the is an M on these games, because they are aimed at a "mature" audience. It is the PARENTS responsibility for what their children play. I respect your opinion , but with all due respect,stop beating a dead horse.It's not getting you anywhere. Thank You.
Adult written by Common Sense

Common Sense Media is all about media sanity, not censorship, and we agree with the comment that parents play an important role in their kids' media consumption. We also agree that access to guns and mental health services are enormous factors contributing to violence in our culture. That said, current research about media violence is incomplete and out of date, and we believe we have an obligation to explore its effect on kids.
Kid, 12 years old

I love it how all the people who wrote in the comments are criticizing this letter. Because seriously if you want to stop things like this from happening then why can every person in America in almost every state just buy a gun with no questions asked?
Adult written by Andrew_H

This truly disgusts me. You are taking a national tragedy and trying to push your agenda of lies to censor what millions of people enjoy. Video games have ratings for a reason- if your kid isn't old enough to be playing a game rated 17+ it's the PARENT'S responsibility to not buy it for them. What an ideal concept- parents taking responsibility for what their children consume.. if only there were a WEBSITE WHERE PEOPLE COULD LEARN ABOUT SUCH THINGS. But no, we need the government to have more control over what we consume. This website is a hoax and it disgusts me that you have funding enough for your own commercial. May God have mercy on your sick pathetic soul.
Teen, 15 years old written by Crazy25

Okay, stuff like this needs to stop, people you need to wake up and smell reality. I don't know if you know this but, news flash, life is and has been from the beginning of time violent, way before media even existed. Do you talk about gun control and background checks on people before they by guns, no. Do you talk about how sane the person was and how people don't get the proper mental treatment, no. Instead what do you do, you blame movies and video games, because that's the cause of all violence in america right, movies and video games. You guys (meaning everyone that does this) decided to blame something so easy to scapegoat because no one wants to admit that humanity is flawed. But the best part about all of this is you only blame the movies, video games, and sometimes music. I'm sorry but if you want at least make a credible argument you have to attack books, if you believe that movies and games are the cause of violence in our society, then you have to believe the same about books because books are just as violent or even more violent as the other forms of art. In fact some of the greatest but violent films are based on books, for example: The Godfather, Fight Club, Psycho (original), All of the Stephen King movies (Shinning, Misery, etc.), Lord of the Flies, A Clockwork Orange, all of the stuff with Hannibal are based of books (I'm currently reading Red Dragon right now, then I'm going to watch the movie), etc. the list just go on. So in conclusion, if your going after one form of art, you have to go after them all. Also if you, in the slight chance find something linking these terrible tragedies on any form of art and decide that this calls for restricting, censoring, and banning, I will be there in Washington D.C. protesting, fighting for my art and my rights that I should have in this supposedly free country. My heart and sympathy goes out to everyone who's been effected by these recent terrible events, I hope you all be safe. Happy Holidays from me and my undying passion for art to you. P.S. I'm 15 years old and right now I'am currently: Reading: Red Dragon Playing: Dead Space 2, Grand Theft Auto V, Aliens vs. Predator (2010), and Kingdom Hearts Watching (movie): Pain & Gain, Fight Club, The Wolverine Extended Cut, Gremlins, and Little Shop of Horrors: The Director's Cut (My all time favorite movie. When I was a kid, 4 years old, I saw the theatrical cut and loved it and still loved it until the director's cut came, which I love even more.) Watching (TV): The Walking Dead, Hannibal, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Red vs. Blue, RWBY, Adventure Time, Regular Show, Nostalgia Critic, and The Amazing World of Gumball. I watch, read, and play all this violent content and yet I have a ton of friends, do good in school and have a normal life style. So I tell you this, you want to run tests on violent media, then use me as a test subject and I'll show you how wrong everyone pointing this finger is.
Teen, 13 years old written by Strategist101

Thank you! Less VERY few people are ever affected by violence in the media beyond knowing HOW to use a gun. I know how, I play video games, I watch movie, I read books, I've never killed anybody! Media violence isn't a way to explain real killings.