A decade long study by the University of Glasgow, involving studies of over 11 000 families, has found that playing video games does NOT have a negative impact on the behavioral or emotional well-being of children.
The research team studied both television and video games, arguing that connections with attention disorders, anger and other problems might be connected to both. Moreover, the authors of the study wondered if
games may have more powerful effects due to active user engagement, identification with characters and repeated rehearsal and reinforcement.”
The assumption was that increased screen time would result in poorer behavior, attention or an increase in emotional problems and anger management. However, after the extensive research paper was published earlier this month it presented some interesting findings:
Exposure to video games had no effect on behavior, attention or emotional issues.
Neither television nor video games lead to attentional or emotional problems.
There was no difference between boys and girls in the survey results.
In fact the only negative finding was related to television – not gaming at all.
Watching 3 or more hours of television at age 5 did lead to a small increase in behavioral problems in youngsters between 5 and 7.
The University relied on parents regularly reporting on the habits of their youngsters, particularly in regard to average time spent watching TV or playing games, combined with emotional and behavioral difficulties faced. Whilst there was some scope for parents to skew the results (e.g. reporting a slightly reduced time spent in some cases, etc.), the University felt with such a large pool involved, the results were solid.
This was also one of the first ever studies to regard watching TV and playing videogames as separate activities and asked parents to report on them as such.
For years, parents, teachers and the general public have blamed video games for some of the issues that youngsters face. These findings may come as no surprise to the gaming community at large, but they will certainly be shocking to some.
These findings support the idea that gaming can be a good thing. Other studies have shown that gaming can help children suffering from dyslexia to improve their reading, and the benefits to memory and spacial recognition have been well publicised in the past. This study shows that these benefits come without any harmful side-effects.
However, that’s not to say that there is NO correlation between children with behavioral or emotional difficulties and videogaming, only that the perception has been turned on its head.
Children with a plethora of difficulties, for instance: social anxiety, depression, neglected children or anger management issues, may find a comfort in video gaming – but their issues don’t stem from playing video games. Their problems may come from a challenging home life, difficulty in adjusting to a new school, Autistic Spectrum Disorder or other mental / emotional difficulty – all of which could present itself in school or public situations as ‘anti-social behavior’ or appearing ‘withdrawn’ etc. Video gaming is simply an escape for a neglected, angry, or emotional child. ‘Excessive’ time spent playing games may be an indication that a child is in distress, however they are not the cause.
As the study reports, there are as many perfectly happy, well adjusted, trouble free children spending hours playing games as there are children who are gaming and suffering with some sort of social, behavioral or emotional issue.
Richard is a father, teacher, gamer and writer. He believes that The Last of Us and Olli Olli 2 are the finest games ever made, feels that the StarWars Saga should only be watched in ‘the Machete order’ and once cleared Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time in one sitting. Took him 20 hours, four cups of tea and a sausage roll. You can follow him on twitter @TLOUFactionsMP or @VigilanteSanta and view his occasional twitch outbursts on twitch.tv/spooklebeans.