Existing research on the impact violent video games, television shows and movies have on children is outdated, according to a new report released this week.

The report was released by Common Sense Media, a nonprofit group that advocates for children and families with a focus on media. It analyzes the current information and studies done in recent years relating violence in the media to its effect on children. After looking at the data available, Common Sense Media determined that this information hasn’t kept pace with rapidly changing content.

“The presence of violent images in advertising seen by children has barely been studied, comprehensive research on TV violence is nearly two decades old, video game research hasn’t kept pace with current modes of gaming or tracked the content most consumed by youth, and studies of online exposure are nearly nonexistent,” the report states.

For instance, two studies about media violence and its impact on children are cited in the report to demonstrate how varied findings are on this particular topic. Both studies are from 2012. The first one shows a link between aggressive behavior in children and media violence, while the other shows no evidence of a link between violent video games and aggressive behavior in children. A possible reason for these polar results could be that studies monitoring media have “widely varying” standards for what constitutes violence, the report says. Also, studies examining media can be costly, time consuming and difficult to design, which could also account for the variance.

There are some other details that need more research, too, like what type of violence children are exposed to (gruesome versus slapstick). This can depend on which genre of television or movies they watch. More research also needs to be poured into the effect of violence in advertising on children, since the report states this is an area that is often ignored.

But what’s certain is that children are exposed to violence through the media. A study from the Kaiser Family Foundation from 2010, cited in the report, shows children and teens consume an average of seven hours of screen time per day. From other research, CSM concludes that 90% of movies include some scenes of violence, as do 68% of video games, 60% of TV shows, and 15% of music videos. Whether that has an impact on children’s behavior remains to be determined for certain.

“However, the research that is available does allow us to think about violent media as a ‘risk factor’ to violence — one variable among many that increases the risk of violent behavior among some children,” writes Julia Plonowski, communications manager for Common Sense Media.

It’s possible we could see some new and more in-depth research about the effect of media on children in the future. President Obama recently called for $10 million in funds to be directed toward this type of research during a speech about gun violence shortly after the recent shooting in Newtown, Conn.

Do you think any particular media is more harmful to children than others? What effect do you think violence in media has on children and teens, if any? Tell us in the comments.

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto, alvar

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