Sunday 21 September 2014

Video games make children 'happier and more sociable'

Claire McCormack

Published 05/08/2014 | 02:30

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The study reveals that spending short periods of time playing video games - including action games - can have a positive impact on a child's development

CHILDREN who spend limited time playing video games are happier, more sociable and less hyperactive, according to new findings at a top university.

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Despite widespread fears that video games are harmful to young minds, a study carried out by Oxford University reveals that spending short periods of time playing video games - including action games - can have a positive impact on a child's development.

The study, carried out on boys and girls aged 10-15 years, compared those who did not play games to those who played for varying periods of time on consoles or computers, including Sony PlayStations and Nintendo Wii.

Almost 5,000 children from across the UK were asked to quantify their typical time spent gaming.

Some 75pc admitted to playing video games every day.

"Those who played video games for less than half an hour, were associated with the highest levels of sociability and were most likely to say they were satisfied with their lives compared to non-players and those who played frequently," the study concluded.

The scientists also found that those who spent short periods gaming appeared to have "fewer friendship and emotional problems, and reported less hyperactivity than the other groups".

The findings, published in the journal of Paediatrics, also revealed that playing for up to three hours a day had no affect. However, playing for more than three hours daily was harmful.

Study author Dr Andrew Przybylski said that while the results supported recent research identifying downsides of electronic games, high levels of gaming "appear to be only weakly linked to children's behavioural problems in the real world".

"Likewise, the small, positive effects we observed do not support the idea that video games on their own can help children develop in an increasingly digital world," he said.

He added that further research needs to be done.

However Dr David Carey, a child and adolescent psychologist based in Dublin, questioned the accuracy of using self reports from children and said he remains sceptical about the benefits of gaming.

"Some video games can help children keep track of detail and have a positive affect on short-term memory and concentration, at least as applied to the game.

However, that doesn't mean these same skills are then applied in the classroom," he said, adding that much more specific evidence in needed.

On a positive note, Dr Carey said it was promising that video games can create a common social ground.

But he pointed out that parents needed to monitor the games and ensure their children don't isolate themselves.

"I've come across a large number of teenagers who become obsessed and addicted to gaming and often neglect their family, friends and homework as a result," said Dr Carey, who has worked as a psychologist for over 40 years.

"It's easy for parents to come away from this report thinking and it's OK for my 10-year-old to play for an hour a day, but what they really need is exercise and outside play opportunities. That's where they'll see real benefits," he said.

Irish Independent

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