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Video Games May Make Teens More Sexist

Video Games May Make Teens More Sexist

On an episode of The Office, Todd Packer, the company’s traveling salesman, tells a joke: “So a guy goes home, tells his wife, ‘Honey, pack your bags. I just won the lottery!’ She goes, ‘Oh my God! That’s incredible! Where are we going?’ His response: ‘I don’t know where you’re going. Just be outta here by five!'” All the guys in the office laugh, while a female colleague, Phyllis, looks on incredulously.

Unfortunately, sexism crops up in the real world too, from universities to newsrooms to workplaces. We don’t know completely what makes one person more sexist than another, but a study in Frontiers in Psychology points to one possible way it’s nurtured in kids—video games.

Researchers surveyed 13,000 young people ages 11 to 19, asking how often they played video games and how strongly they agreed or disagreed with the statement, “A woman is made mainly for making and raising children.” Turns out, the more a child played video games the more likely he—or she—was to have sexist attitudes. And an Ohio State study found the more a young man identifies with violent video game characters the less empathetic he is toward female victims of violence.

So, how can you help your video-game-obsessed child avoid developing such attitudes? First, filter out the games where females are victims or over-sexualized. Then make video-game playing an occasional treat rather than a regular after-school activity. You’ll increase the chances your young men will respect women and your young women will respect themselves.

Medically reviewed in February 2020.

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