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As the holiday season approaches, teenagers around the world start getting itchy game-controller fingers as they dream of receiving their favorite new video games under the Christmas tree.Teens stay awake at night imagining ripping open the gift wrapping to find shiny boxes containing Mini Golf or Pinball 3D. If sales figures are any indication, what most teens really want is the game Grand Theft Auto V.

Characters can regain health by paying to have sex with a prostitute, and can kill the prostitute afterwards to get their money. Some people see criticism of video game violence as the work of prudish killjoys who want to trample their First Amendment rights and censor the work of video game artists.

But I approach the subject as a scientific researcher who has studied these games for 25 years.

From that perspective, I have real concerns about letting teens play games like GTA.

Several colleagues and I recently conducted a comprehensive review of more than 130 studies involving more than 130,000 participants around the world.

These studies show that violent video games increase aggressive thoughts and angry feelings and lead to higher heart rate and blood pressure and more aggressive behavior.

Violent games also decrease helping behavior and feelings of empathy and compassion for others.

The effects occurred for males and females of all ages, regardless of where in the world they lived.

My Italian colleagues (Alessandro Gabbiadini, Paolo Riva, Chiara Volpato, and Luca Andrighetto) and I just conducted a new study that found that playing violent video games also leads to less self-control and more cheating.

In our study, high school students 13 to 19 years old were randomly assigned to play either a violent video game (Grand Theft Auto III or Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas) or a nonviolent game (Pinball 3D or Mini Golf 3D) for 35 minutes.

During the experiment, a bowl containing chocolate M&M candy was placed next to the computer.

The teens were told they could freely eat them, but were warned that high consumption of candy in a short time was unhealthy.

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