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Video gaming and 'better adjusted' kids

WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Sheena Meredith
video game therapy for lazy eye

4th August 2014 –- Concern is often raised about the amount of time young people spend daily on video games. Now new UK research has found that a little video game-playing, less than an hour a day, leads to better adjusted children and teenagers.

It also found no positive or negative effects for those who indulged in moderate video game-playing (between 1 to 3 hours a day) compared with those who had never played or those who were on video games for 3 hours or more a day.

However, the study suggests the influence of video games on children, for good or for bad, is very small when compared with more 'enduring' factors, such as whether the child is from a functioning family, their school relationships, and whether they are materially deprived.

Video gaming study

The new study is thought to be the first to examine both the positive and negative effects of gaming. It was carried out by Oxford University, and its results have been published in the journal Pediatrics.

Nearly 5,000 young people from across the UK, half male and half female, between 10 and 15 years of age, using console games like Nintendo Wii and Sony PlayStations, as well as computer-based games, were analysed.

Participants were asked how much time they typically spent on console-based or computer-based games. The same group also answered questions about how satisfied they were with their lives, their levels of hyperactivity and inattention; empathy; and how they got on with their peers.

Video gaming study findings

The results suggest that 3 in 4 British children and teenagers play video games on a daily basis, and that those who spent more than half their daily free time playing electronic games were not as well adjusted. Researchers speculate that this could be because they miss out on other enriching activities and possibly expose themselves to inappropriate content designed for adults.

Meanwhile, when compared to non-players and those who played very frequently, those who played video games for less than an hour (estimated to be less than one-third of their daily free time), were associated with the highest levels of sociability and were most likely to say they were satisfied with their lives. They also appeared to have fewer friendship and emotional problems, and reported less hyperactivity than the other groups.

Study author, Dr Andrew Przybylski from the Oxford Internet Institute, told us: "These data suggest that there are not detachable negative effects for gaming until young people pass the 3 hour mark on a typical day. Follow up research is needed to determine if there is a hard and fast rule for where game time goes from a positive to a negative influence."

Previous research suggests that roughly half of young people in the UK are light players of less than an hour a day. Nearly one-third of children spend 1 to 3 hours, while roughly 10-15% of young people invest more than 3 hours daily, or more than half of their free time each day, playing electronic games.

However, Dr Przybylski says high levels of video game-playing appear to be only weakly linked to children's behavioural problems in the real world. Likewise, the small, positive effects observed for low levels of play on electronic games did not support the idea that video games on their own can help children develop in an increasingly digital world.

He says: "There were statistically significant links relating high and low levels of play to negative and positive outcomes but the analyses showed the overall links were quite small. Other factors, such as whether one plays games with their child, may be much more important than the number of hours played."

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