Most studies looking into the effects of video games on children have tended to focus on the negative outcomes. But one of the first studies to examine both positive and negative effects of video game-playing suggests that children who play for less than 1 hour each day are better adjusted than those who have never played or those who play for 3 hours or more.
The study was conducted by researchers at Oxford University in the UK and is published in the journal Pediatrics.
Drawn from a nationally representative study of UK households, the study included almost 5,000 males and females between the ages of 10 and 15 years old. Researchers asked them how much time they spent on video or computer-based games, how satisfied they were with their lives, their levels of hyperactivity and inattention, and how well they related to their peers.
From the study, the team found that 75% of children and teens in the UK play video games daily.
The researchers say that those who play electronic games for more than half of their free time each day were not as well adjusted, which could be due to them missing out on other activities while also exposing them to content designed for adults.
Commenting on their findings, study author Andrew Przybylski, from the Oxford Internet Institute, says:
”These results support recent laboratory-based experiments that have identified the downsides to playing electronic games. However, high levels of video game-playing appear to be only weakly linked to children’s behavioral problems in the real world.”
However, the team found that the influence of video games on young people – whether good or bad – is small, compared with more lasting factors, such as whether the child is from a functioning family, what their school relationships are like and whether they are deprived materially.
The study also revealed that, compared with non-players and those who played frequently, the kids and teens who played video games for less than an hour had the highest levels of sociability and reported that they were satisfied with their lives.
The researchers add that this group of young people had fewer problems with their friendships and fewer emotional problems, and they reported less hyperactivity, compared with the other groups.
But Przybylski says that “the small, positive effects we observed for low levels of play on electronic games do not support the idea that video games on their own can help children develop in an increasingly digital world.”
He notes that although their study identified positive effects, they were “quite small, suggesting that any benefits may be limited to a narrow range of action games.”
“Further research needs to be carried out to look closely at the specific attributes of games that make them beneficial or harmful. It will also be important to identify how social environments such as family, peers, and the community shape how gaming experiences influence young people.”
Medical News Today recently reported on a study published in Psychological Science, which suggested that video games affect behavior in the real world.
But it is not all bad news for video games; another study suggested video games could combat age-related cognitive decline in older individuals.