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Games are good for kids, according to new research

Tom Morgan
4 Aug 2014
Child playing games
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A small gaming session each day could have developmental benefits for young children, a new research report says

Playing too many games will rot your brain and give you square eyes - at least that's what my parents told me after I'd spent an entire saturday trying in vain to finish Mega Drive classic Dynamite Heddy in a single session. Science might have just proved the opposite is true, however; a new study by Oxford University has revealed that a little gaming could actually be beneficial to a child's development.

According to the report, first picked up by the BBC, the team of researchers let by experimental psychologist Dr Andrew Przybylsk discovered that youngsters playing less than an hour of video games each day were better adjusted than those that didn't play at all. The report, published to the journal Pediatrics, used surveys answered by 5,000 young people aged between 10 and 15, with over 75% saying they played games at least once a day.

As well as saying how much time they spent gaming on a typical school day, on both consoles and PCs, the responders were also asked to rate how well they got on with their peers, how likely they were to help people in difficulty, their general satisfaction with their lives and levels of hyperactivity and inattention. Each response was combined to assess how psychologically and socially adjusted the respondents were. Compared to other groups, including those that spent absolutely no time gaming at all, it was the group reporting under an hour of play per day that consistently reported being satisfied with their lives. They also showed fewer emotional issues, lower levels of hyperactivity, and had the highest level of positive social interactions.

The research did discover that too much gaming could have a negative impact, however. Youngsters that reported spending more than three hours per day playing games had a lower overall satisfaction level.

"Being engaged in video games may give children a common language," Dr. Przybylsk told the BBC. "For someone who is not part of this conversation, this might end up cutting the young person off." He suggests that his team's results should encourage policy makers and government advisors on the use of technology to reevaluate their recommendations to parents. "In a research environment that is often polarised between those who believe games have an extremely beneficial role and those who link them to violent acts, this research could provide a new, more nuanced standpoint."

He was also quick to point out the importance of family relationships, saying they played a much larger role than that of video games on the children questioned for the study.

The report follows a separate research report, which suggested poor game design was just as responsible for causing aggressive reactions as the on-screen violence in first person shooters.

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