Dr. Oz Claims Video Games Bad for Teens

In a recent syndicated column, Dr. Mehmet Oz (best known for The Dr. Oz Show) and Dr. Mike Roizen claim that violent video games “harm young, developing brains by fueling aggressive behavior, dulling empathy and causing sleep problems.” Their evidence? Nothing at all.

Video games have been scapegoated by the media and politicians despite a lack of scientific evidence that supports a link between video game use and violent behavior. GamerPolitics.com commented on Dr. Oz’s column, pointing out the root problem with Dr. Oz’s claim:

Of course the problem with all these proclamations from Dr. Oz and his colleague is that he is not qualified to make them. He holds no degrees in clinical psychology or therapy, and has never conducted any research on the affects of violent video games. Dr. Oz is a Professor of Surgery, and Vice-Chairman – Department of Surgery at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons in NYC; and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, NY an attending surgeon at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center.

TechDirt also commented, methodically picking apart Dr. Oz’s claims:

… Here’s the opening paragraph, which gives readers some insight into the doctors’ mindset, but not much else.

Call of Duty: Black Ops (dismembered limbs, obscene language, torture) and Hitman: Absolution (can you really absolve a hit man?) — $13.6 billion is spent annually in North America so that more than 210 million folks can play video games like these. Many of those players are younger than 18, and that’s, you know, way bad for kids and teens.

No. I don’t know. Perhaps if you could point me to some research (preferably nothing by Craig Anderson) that shows how video games are “way bad” for kids and teens. Also, a majority of the 210 million gamers are over the age of 18, which is who these games are targeted at (and rated for).

Dr. Oz’s short column may seem like another piece of fluff that can be easily ignored, but given his popularity and the numerous of unfounded claims about video games that have already been made, it only compounds the problem. It should be noted that Dr. Oz did not blame the industry or retailers (although it could be construed from the column that Dr. Oz does not believe the industry’s rating system is reliable), but making claims that video games are harmful to teenagers without providing evidence does not address the problem of violent behavior. Further, it opens the door to the suppression of free speech, a right that the Supreme Court afforded to video games in the Brown v. EMA decision. In acting as an authority on a subject matter in which he is not, in fact, an authority, Dr. Oz does more potential harm than good.

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Betsy Gomez is the Web Editor for CBLDF.