A decade ago, I wrote a grant to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to study the effects of violent video games on the attitudes and behaviors of young teens. Our team at Harvard/Massachusetts General Hospital tried to squeeze as much value as possible from those $1.5 million taxpayer dollars. We turned out numerous academic papers and chapters. When our MGH team disbanded, I gave our survey dataset to my colleague Chris Ferguson, who continues to unearth useful insights.
Given our public funding, I felt an obligation to share our findings not just with other researchers, but with parents, policymakers, physicians and educators. I wrote Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth About Violent Video Games and What Parents Can Do (Simon & Schuster, 2008 & 2011) with my spouse and longtime collaborator Larry Kutner. We were taken aback (perhaps naively) by the criticism we received for considering the possibility that video games might have benefits as well as risks. But we were surprised and heartened by the warm reception we received from the gamer community.
Video games have taken me around the world, with academic and popular presentations from Istanbul to South Korea, and radio/TV/print/web interviews with journalists in dozens of countries. I’ve had the good fortune to meet and collaborate with fascinating people from all kinds of places and backgrounds. If you have concerns or questions about video game effects, this site has information that may help.
I’m now returning to my original and primary interest: the strategic use of media to improve physical and mental health. This site hosts examples of my research, writing and media productions on topics such as tobacco control, teen depression, science literacy, exercise promotion/weight loss, preventing unplanned pregnancies, and helping low-income youth overcome obstacles to successful adult lives. Please get in touch if you have a problem or project you’d like to talk about.
–Cheryl K. Olson