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Time on Video Games, Not Content, Impacts Kids’ Behavior

New research suggests that it is not the content of the video games that influences child behavior, but the time spent playing the game.

U.K. researchers discovered that children who play video games for more than three hours a day are more likely to be hyperactive, get involved in fights, and not be interested in school.

In the study, investigators from the University of Oxford examined the effects of different types of games and the time spent playing, on children’s social and academic behavior.

They found that the time spent playing games could be linked with problem behavior. This was a significant factor, rather than the types of games played. They could find no link between playing violent games and real-life aggression or a child’s academic performance.

Researchers also found that low levels of play, under an hour a day, might actually benefit behavior.

The findings are published in the journal Psychology of Popular Media Culture.

According to lead author Dr. Andrew Przybylski, “We can see links between some types of games and children’s behavior, as well as time spent playing. However, we cannot say that game play causes good or bad behavior.”

Przybylski believes the risks attached to game-playing are small.

“A range of other factors in a child’s life will influence their behavior more, as this research suggests that playing electronic games may be a statistically significant but minor factor in how children progress academically or in their emotional well-being.”

The research clarifies the benefits and risks from playing digital games.

For example, although some parents might believe that playing strategy and puzzle games will help their child boost their school grades or increase their social skills, the bad news is that the sociability and the grades of the children who played such games were found to be no higher than their non-playing peers.

Researchers discovered that negative patterns of behavior were not linked to any of the game features typically encountered by young people. Moreover, children who played some kinds of games were linked to some types of positive behavior.

Children who played video games with a cooperative and competitive element had significantly fewer emotional problems or problems with peers. Children who chose to play solitary games were found to do well academically and displayed fewer emotional problems or get involved in fights.

The researchers relied on teachers’ assessments of behavior of individual pupils at a school in the southeast of England, instead of relying solely on data from the young people.

Teachers reported whether the 200 pupils in the study group were helpful, their academic achievements, and whether they were rowdy or likely to get into fights.

The pupils involved in the study were numbered so their personal identities were not revealed to the researchers. These assessments were matched with the responses to a questionnaire that asked each of the pupils in the study, who were aged 12-13 years old, how long they played games each day and the type of games they preferred.

The choice given was to play solo, offline competitive team games, online cooperative and competitive games, combat and violence, puzzles and strategy, and games to do with sport and racing.

The study suggests provides at least partial support to the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics that parents should pay close attention to the amount of time their children are playing these games.

Co-author Allison Mishkin, M.Sc., said, ‘These results highlight that playing video games may just be another style of play that children engage with in the digital age, with the benefits felt from the act of playing rather than the medium itself being the significant factor.’

Source: University of Oxford

Time on Video Games, Not Content, Impacts Kids’ Behavior

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Time on Video Games, Not Content, Impacts Kids’ Behavior. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 2 Apr 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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