Amount of electronic gameplay associated with psychosocial adjustment

1. Children who played video or computer games for less than 1 hour per day reported significantly greater social behavior and life satisfaction than those who did not play at all.

2. Children who played electronic games for more than 3 hours each day reported significantly more emotional symptoms, conduct problems, hyperactivity, inattention, peer relationship problems, and lower life satisfaction than those who were not gamers.

Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Good)  

Study Rundown: Previous research has supported the presence of both negative (e.g. increased aggressive behavior) and positive (e.g. fosters creativity) effects of video games on children’s psychosocial behavior. The current study evaluated the effects of different levels of electronic game activity on children’s psychosocial adjustment. Electronic gaming less than one hour per day was associated with reports of greater life satisfaction and better social behaviors. On the other hand, children who played more than 3 hours a day were found to report more negative psychosocial problems (emotional, conduct, hyperactivity, inattention, and peer relationship). The latter group reported decreased happiness with school, school work, appearance, family, and friends than those who did not play electronic games. Data may be limited as researchers used a subjective data collection tool, game types were not differentiated, and smart-phone and tablet-based gameplay were not assessed. However, these results may aid clinicians in advising amount of gameplay time for the development of greater social behaviors and life satisfaction for children.

Click to read the study, published today in Pediatrics

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In-Depth [retrospective cohort study]: Responses from a total of 4899 participants (ages 10 to 15 years, 50% male) were included from the UK Understanding Society Household Longitudinal Study. Participants were asked to rate their engagement in computer-based and console-based games in hours per day. Internalizing/externalizing problems and prosocial behavior were measured by using the Strengths and Difficulty Questionnaire, a widely validated behavioral screening questionnaire. Life satisfaction was assessed by asking children to rate their happiness with school, family, and friends. Light players (<1 hour/day) reported significantly more prosocial behavior, greater life satisfaction, and lower externalizing/internalizing problems when compared to children who did not play at all (P <.001 for all). Moderate play group (1-3 hours/day) did not report any significant association with either positive or negative psychosocial features. Heavy players (>3 hours/day) reported significantly higher levels of internalizing/externalizing problems, lower levels of prosocial behavior, and lower life satisfaction when compared to those who did not play electronic games (P <.001 for all).

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