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Teenagers are using violent video games to vent their stress, a new study has found.

According to the Massachusetts General Hospital's (MGH) Centre for Mental Health and Media, many young people play video games to manage their feelings, such as stress and anger, and those who play violent video games are among those more likely to play to deal with their anger.

The study found that almost all young teenagers play video games, with only six per cent not playing any in the six months prior to the survey.

Not only that, young teenagers seem to prefer to play violent games; most of those between the age of 12 and 14 who took part in the study had played violent video games regularly, while two-thirds of boys and more than a quarter of girls said they had played at least one M-rated (has a mature rating) game "a lot" during the previous six months.

Although researchers found that the M-rated Grand Theft Auto series was the top game of choice among the teenage boys surveyed, it was the second most popular choice for girls. The top choice for girls was The Sims series.

"Contrary to the stereotype of the solitary gamer with no social skills, we found that children who play M-rated games are actually more likely to play in groups - in the same room, or over the internet," Cheryl Olson, ScD, co-director of the Centre for Mental Health and Media and lead author of the study, said.

The study surveyed 1,254 children from the US, representing the various socio-economic, racial/ethnic and geographic groups. The results seem to dispel some of the myths that the graphic video games breed a generation of violent and disturbed teens, as recent media reports may have given the impression.

"We hope this study is a first step toward reframing the debate from 'violent games are terrible and destroying society' to 'what types of game content might be harmful to what types of kids, in what situations'," said Olson.

Violent games recently hit the headlines again, with the news that Rockstar's Manhunt 2 had been banned in Ireland by the Irish Film Censor's Office, denied a rating in the UK and slapped with an AO (adults only) rating in the US - which means many retailers will not sell it at all. The launch of the game has now been suspended by publisher TakeTwo interactive, although online protests are starting to gather pace.

© 2007 ENN

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