It’s not which game your kid plays, it’s how long he or she plays and… it’s just a minor factor for poor behavior

New research does show a link between poor behavior by kids and their gaming habits, but not the kind of games (e.g. first person shooters) but how long they game has an influence: children who play video games for more than three hours a day are more likely to be hyperactive, get involved in fights and not be interested in school. But even more interesting: low levels of play might even have a positive effect. Still there is a big warning light: yep, it’s correlation and not a causal relation that the study shows. Actually, this research suggests “…that playing electronic games may be a statistically significant but minor factor in how children progress academically or in their emotional wellbeing.”

Oh, and btw, this study also doesn’t support the learning effect of certain games on grades, the researchers couldn’t find a link.

From the press release:

A new study examined the effects of different types of games and time spent playing on children’s social and academic behaviour. The researchers from the University of Oxford found that the time spent playing games could be linked with problem behaviour and this was the significant factor rather than the types of games played. They could find no link between playing violent games and real-life aggression or a child’s academic performance. They also found that low levels of play – under an hour a day – might actually benefit behaviour. The findings are published in the journal, Psychology of Popular Media Culture.

Lead author Dr Andy Przybylski, from Oxford University’s Oxford Internet Institute, said: ‘We can see links between some types of games and children’s behaviour, as well as time spent playing. However, we cannot say that game play causes good or bad behaviour. We also know that the risks attached to game-playing are small. A range of other factors in a child’s life will influence their behaviour more as this research suggests that playing electronic games may be a statistically significant but minor factor in how children progress academically or in their emotional wellbeing.’

Although some parents might believe that by playing strategy and puzzle games their child might boost their school grades or increase their social skills, the bad news is that the sociability and the grades of the children who played such games were found to be no higher than their non-playing peers.

The study finds that no game features typically encountered by young people could be linked with any negative patterns of behaviour; yet children who played some kinds of games were linked to some types of positive behaviour. Children who played video games with a cooperative and competitive element had significantly fewer emotional problems or problems with peers. Children who chose to play solitary games were found to do well academically and displayed fewer emotional problems or get involved in fights.

The researchers relied on teachers’ assessments of behaviour of individual pupils at a school in the southeast of England – instead of relying solely on data from the young people. Teachers reported whether the 200 pupils in the study group were helpful, their academic achievements, and whether they were rowdy or likely to get into fights .The pupils involved in the study were numbered so their personal identities were not revealed to the researchers. These assessments were matched with the responses to a questionnaire that asked each of the pupils in the study, who were aged 12-13 years old, how long they played games each day and the type of games they preferred. The choice given was to play solo, offline competitive team games, online cooperative and competitive games, combat and violence, puzzles and strategy, and games to do with sport and racing.

The study suggests that these latest findings lends partial support to the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics that parents should pay close attention to the amount of time their children are playing these games.

Co-author Allison Mishkin said: ‘These results highlight that playing video games may just be another style of play that children engage with in the digital age, with the benefits felt from the act of playing rather than the medium itself being the significant factor.’

Abstract of the study:

Electronic gaming contexts are now a dominant entertainment medium for young people in the developed and developing world (Lenhart et al., 2008), yet little is known about how distinct doses of gaming exposure may influence adolescents. This research focused on the effects of quantity of play, the amount of time devoted to gaming on a typical day, and quality of play, the kinds of games regularly played, as predictors on teachers’ evaluations of young peoples’ academic engagement and psychosocial functioning. Results derived from a school-based sample of 217 young people indicated that, compared with those who did not play, adolescents who engaged in low levels of gaming,<1 hr a day, evidenced lower levels of hyperactivity and conduct issues whereas the opposite was found for those who gamed for >3 hr a day. Further, the teachers of young people who tended toward playing mainly single-player games reported that these students showed lower levels of hyperactivity and conduct problems, fewer peer and emotional difficulties, as well as higher levels of active academic engagement. Teachers of young people who played cooperative and competitive online games rated these students as more emotionally stable and had better relationships with classmates, a pattern of results that remained in evidence controlling for variance linked to participant sex. Results are discussed in light of a developing and increasingly nuanced literature focused on determining the ways and the extent to which electronic gaming may influence young people.

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Filed under Education, Research, Technology, Youngsters

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