Can Video Games Be Good for Kids?

March 14, 2016 | Reece Alvarez

Photo credit: Lars Frantzen/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

New research from Columbia University and Paris Descartes University indicates video game playing may benefit children.

Parents often struggle to limit the amount of time their children spend playing video games, and past research has shown that violent entertainment can have negative impacts on behavior, but a new study shows that parents might want to think twice before shutting down the Xbox as there may actually be benefits for children who play video games.

Researchers at Columbia Mailman School of Public Health and colleagues at Paris Descartes University assessed the association between the amount of time spent playing video games and children's mental health and cognitive and social skills, finding that video games may positively affect young children.

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The results, published online in the journal Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, show that, after adjusting for age, gender, and number of children, frequent users of video games were 1.75 times more likely to have high intellectual functioning and 1.88 times more likely to have high overall school competence.

The researchers also found that more video game playing was associated with fewer relationship problems with peers. Based on parent reporting, one in five kids played video games for more than 5 hours per week.

Importantly, no significant associations were found with any mental health problems as reported by the teachers, mothers, and children themselves.

However, Katherine M. Keyes, PhD, assistant professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health, warns that the study’s findings do not mean children should be allowed to play video games until their eyes gloss over.

“These results indicate that children who frequently play video games may be socially cohesive with peers and integrated into the school community,” she said in a press release. “We caution against over interpretation, however, as setting limits on screen usage remains an important component of parental responsibility as an overall strategy for student success.”

The results were based on data from the School Children Mental Health Europe project which surveys children age 6 to11 in six European countries. Parents and teachers assessed their child's mental health in a questionnaire and the children themselves responded to questions through an interactive tool. Teachers also participated by evaluating academic success.

Factors associated with time spent playing video games included being a boy, being older, and belonging to a mid-sized family. Researchers found that having a less educated or single mother decreased time spent playing video games.


Based on materials provided by Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health

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