Limited Gaming Can Boost Child Wellbeing


A new “study of studies” suggests that a small amount of video gaming can help children’s psychosocial adjustment. But it’s not an effect strong enough to outweigh other developmental factors.

Dr Andrew Przbylski of Oxford University collated the results of several surveys covering around 5,000 British children aged 10 to 15. He filtered the results based on how long each child said he or she spent gaming on an average schoolday.

The results showed no statistically significant difference between children who don’t play daily and “moderate gamers” who spend between one and three hours a day.

Those who played less than one hour a day were more likely to give positive responses (or have positive results) on points such as:

  • how satisfied they felt about their lives;
  • their levels of hyperactivity and inattention;
  • their social interactions; and
  • externalizing and internalizing problems.

In all cases, the opposite was true for those who spent more than three hours gaming each day.

The study, published in the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, noted that while the links were statistically significant, they were small. When combining the various measures covered by the survey into a single rating of psychosocial adjustment, gaming time accounted for just 1.6 percent of variation. Przbylski described the link as a consistent but not robust association and noted that factors such as family background and support were far more important.

According to Pryzbylski, one possible explanation for the positive associations was that gaming gave children a common interest that helped build social bonds. He noted that the negative associations of excessive gaming were harder to confidently explain: it may be a direct result of the gaming, but could also be the simple fact that more time spent gaming meant less time on other activities that might build relationships and boost psychosocial adjustment.

The study didn’t look at the effects of particular genres of games.

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