Children who spend up to an hour a day playing video games are happier and more socially adjusted than those who do not play video games at all or play for more than three hours, according to a study carried out by Oxford University psychologists.
The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, stated that “low engagement was associated with higher life satisfaction and pro-social behavior and lower externalizing and internalizing problems, whereas the opposite was found for high levels of play.”
The study was based on surveys involving 5,000 children aged 10 years to 15 years. The children were asked to quantify the amount of time they spent on gaming using consoles and computers. They were also asked to fill out questionnaires on how satisfied they were with their lives, their levels of hyperactivity and inattention, and their relationships with friends.
75 percent of those surveyed said they played video games regularly, and based on their replies, the children’s levels of psychological and social adjustment were assessed.
The research concluded that children who played video games for an hour or less “were associated with the highest levels of sociability and were most likely to say they were satisfied with their lives. They also appeared to have fewer friendship and emotional problems, and reported less hyperactivity than the other groups,” while those who spent more than three hours on gaming were less adjusted socially.
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“This could be because they miss out on other enriching activities and possibly expose themselves to inappropriate content designed for adults,” the paper said.
Andrew Przybylski, an Oxford-based experimental psychologist who authored the paper, told The Telegraph that “high levels of video game-playing appear to be only weakly linked to children's behavioural problems in the real world,” adding that even the “small, positive effects” observed for low levels of video game playing did not “support the idea that video games on their own can help children develop in an increasingly digital world.”
Speaking to the BBC, he said that the aim of the study was to provide a “nuanced standpoint” on the role of video games in the development of a child’s psyche.