Why video games, in moderation, are good for kids, says UK study

Just in time for the last days of summer vacation in the US, an Oxford University study of 5,000 British children, shows  that video games, in limited amounts, are good for kids.

Silvia Izquierdo/AP/FILE
People play video games during the FIFA Interactive World Cup 2014 Grand Final at Sugar Loaf, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Thursday, July 3.

What?! A little video game play a day is actually good for children?

That's what an Oxford University researcher found in a study of 5,000 British 10-to-15-year-olds that looked into both the positive and negative impacts of video gaming. "Young people who spent less than an hour a day engaged in video games were better adjusted than those who did not play at all," the BBC reports, citing the study published in the journal Pediatrics.

The study's author, psychologist Andrew Przybylski, also looked at the effects of two other levels of video game play. What he called "moderate play" (1-3 hours a day) turned up neither positive nor negative effects, and kids who played 3+ hours a day "reported lower satisfaction with their lives overall," according to the study.

Overall, the Times of India adds in its coverage of the study, video gaming's influence on children, positive or negative, "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." 

Play & social well-being

Przybliski also looked at how different amounts of game play affect psychological and social wellbeing. According to the BBC report, he asked about "satisfaction with their lives, how well they got on with their peers, how likely they were to help people in difficulty [and] levels of hyperactivity and inattention." 

As for the social well-being part, one other number is important: how many kids are regular players – how commonplace video gaming is. The study found that about 75 percent of British kids play video games daily (In 2008, the Pew Internet Project reported 97 percent of US 12-to-17-year-olds played video games, about half of them daily). If a lot of your peers play video games (or any activity) and you're not allowed to, you can start to miss out on things. That can affect a young person's social life.

Moderation good in videogaming too

Przybylski referred to a "common language" that develops among participants in any activity. Not knowing that language can lead to some level of social marginalization. But at the other end of the spectrum, excessive engagement in an activity, when other people you want to hang out with aren't so engaged, can have a similar effect. That's just one reason why moderation here, as in just about every aspect of life, is a good thing. Parents may find it comforting that something many of us, our parents and their parents were taught as kids holds true with video game play too.

Another thing parents may find helpful to hear is the author telling the BBC that "factors such as the strength of family relationships play a larger role," in other words have more influence on, kids' psychosocial well-being than time spent video gaming. This maps to a key finding of a 2008 national task force I served on: that a child's psychosocial makeup and home environment are better predictors of his or her well-being online than any technology the child uses.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. Anne Collier blogs at NetFamilyNews, and you can find this original post with relevant related links here.

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