Gaming could make for happier, more emotionally stable and sociable , according to a new study published on Monday. But only if the time spent with a controller in hand is about one hour a day. These new findings seem to go against many parents' fears that video games can be detrimental to their children's social and emotional development, as they can be addictive and therefore keep kids isolated.
The University of Oxford study in the journal Pediatrics tested nearly 5,000 boys and girls between the ages of 10 and 15. The assessed the gaming habits and emotional growth of the participants, who were asked how much time they spent playing video games and to fill out a series of psychological questionnaires. The results: Children who spent up to an hour gaming daily are better adjusted, have fewer behavioral problems and are more likely to care about others. Games had no effect on kids who played for one to three hours a day, while children who play for more than three hours daily are more likely to be unhappy and act out as result.
Another of the study's key findings: Playing video games can be more beneficial than non-interactive entertainment, such as watching television. "Games provide a wide range of novel cognitive challenges, opportunities for exploration, relaxation and socialization with peers," says the study. "Like non-digitally mediated forms of child play, games may encourage child well-being and healthy social adjustment."
Still, the study did find that the effects, positive and negative, were small and wouldn't have as much of an impact on a child's emotional growth as "whether the child is from a functioning family, their school relationships and whether they are materially deprived."
It could be that the positive impact gaming has on children comes down to one small thing: They're having fun! "When kids are...at play, you'd expect them to be happy, right?" says the report's author, Andrew Przybylski, PhD.
Does your child or grandchild play video games every day?