A group of researchers at The College of Wooster is focusing on the potential influence of video gaming on safe behavior.
Bryan Karazsia, assistant professor of psychology at The College of Wooster, points out that more children die of "unintentional injuries" each year than any other cause...more than homicides, suicides, cancers, HIV, and heart disease combined.
The study focused on whether in cases where safety gear, such as helmets or seat belts, should be used, were they shown in the videos.
"Many children in the U.S. spend significant portions of time playing video games, and we already know that the games can influence behavior," says Karazsia.
"Further, previous research has examined injury risk and safety behavior in movies and TV shows, but to our knowledge, video games have yet to be studied empirically in this capacity."
Karaszia and his research team are looking at the content of these games and the subsequent influence on behavior.
The first part of the study involves an attempt to quantify the presentation of injury-risk behavior, injuries, and safety behavior in video games.
"Our preliminary observations suggest that many safety behaviors are not portrayed in video games," he said. "For example, safety belts are rarely portrayed, and many characters do not look both ways before crossing the street or do not wear helmets. A specific example is in Wii's baseball game where, the batters are not wearing helmets. This may not seem like a big deal, but our view is that it is a drastic missed opportunity for creating a culture of safety."
The second part of the study will involve bringing a child and a parent into the lab, where the child will play a few selected video games and then participate in a battery of tests designed to asses injury-risk behaviors in a safe and controlled environment.
"We believe this is a very important area of study," says Karaszia. "We know through Social Learning Theory that people do what they see. Our concern with children is that they model what they see as well as what they don't see when it comes to safety."
The project is funded by a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute SEER program (Summer Early Engaged Research), which enables first-year students to participate in undergraduate research even before they take their first class.
Shannon McKnight and Benjamin Harris are taking advantage of the opportunity and have joined Karaszia and junior psychology major Adam Muller in the study.
The research team hopes to have results ready for release before the end of summer.
Nintendo of America had this response: "Mii caricatures do not always wear the same protective clothing or use the same protective equipment as people do in real life because Miis inhabit a fantasy video game world that is not meant to mirror reality."
"In real life, however, there are a number of safety considerations governed by regulations and common sense that exist for a variety of real-life activities, including the need for safety equipment such as helmets. In real life, one should always use common sense and make safety a priority when engaging in any activity."