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Could a Little Video Game Play Be Good for Kids?

Study found children who played an hour or less a day were the most well-adjusted

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Dennis Thompson

HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Aug. 4, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Kids who spend a little time playing video games each day might be more well-adjusted than those who never play, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that kids who played video games for less than one hour a day were more likely to be happy, helpful and emotionally stable than kids who never grab a controller, according to findings published online Aug. 4 in the journal Pediatrics.

More than three hours daily of gaming had the opposite effect, however. Video game junkies were more likely to be moody, unhappy with their life and apt to act out in negative ways.

Either way, parents should not expect video games to have much sway over their teen's emotional growth, said lead researcher Andrew Przybylski, an experimental psychologist at the Oxford Internet Institute, part of the University of Oxford in England.

Results showed that time spent playing video games has a maximum 1.6 percent overlap with a kid's social development, whether positive or negative.

Other factors likely play a much more important role in a child's emotional health, including the stability of their family life, their relationships at school and whether they are impoverished or deprived, the researchers concluded.

"There's no doubt there's a statistically significant link, but the effect is so small that researchers should question whether this relationship is practically significant," Przybylski said.

To examine both the positive and negative effects of gaming, researchers assessed the video game habits and emotional growth of nearly 5,000 British boys and girls aged 10 to 15.

Each kid reported the number of hours they spent each day playing console-based or computer video games. Participants also filled out a series of questionnaires to determine their emotional health and development.

Three out of four British kids play video games on a daily basis, the researchers discovered.

No effects were found for kids who played between one and three hours a day. They had about the same emotional development as those who never played.

Kids who played less than an hour a day tended to be more happy with their life, more helpful and kind to others and less likely to brood over problems or act out, the study showed.

The opposite held for kids who played more than three hours, a finding that has been reflected in earlier research on video games.

There's one likely reason for the positive impact that came from a minimum amount of gaming, Przybylski said -- the kids are having fun.

"When kids are having fun and are at play, you'd expect them to be happy, right?" he said.

Other experts agreed. "Video games are good at challenging players to solve problems, and overcoming those problems can be very gratifying," said Dr. Paul Weigle, a pediatric and adolescent psychiatrist in Mansfield Center, Conn. "They can have a benefit for teaching problem-solving and persistence."

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