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Major Study Suggests Video Games Don’t Cause Behavior Problems In Young Children

Submitted by on November 24, 2013 – 9:23 am3 Comments

In a subtle but significant finding, a major UK study published last week showed that young children who played video games did not see a decrease in behavior over a few years. The results are far from definitive, but are being widely cited by the video gaming industry, which has faced decades of accusations of being unhealthy for children.

The study, “Do television and electronic games predict children’s psychosocial adjustment?” by researchers at the University of Glasgow, analyzed data covering over 11,000 children from the UK’s Millennium Cohort Study. The data came from mothers who reported time spent watching television and playing electronic games at age 5, and then described if the child’s behavior had deteriorated at all by age 7.

Adjusting for parenting styles and socioeconomic status, the researchers found that those children who played video games did not show increased behavioral problems. They did see a slight increase among children who watched 3 or more hours of television a day at age 5. There was no difference in change between boys and girls.

Will Oremus at Slate offers a thorough analysis of what this study does and doesn’t mean. He highlights the study’s authors themselves, who write that reducing screen exposure for children will not necessarily improve psychological well being, but that it may “be justifiable” in addressing concerns over physical health and academic progress.

But that didn’t stop author and video game advocate Jane McGonigal from tweeting the incorrect statement, “11,000 kids tracked for A DECADE to see if videogames lead to negative attention, behavioral, mood impact. Result: NO”. Similarly, news outlets covering the gaming industry all carried the story, often with misleading headlines.

The industry’s enthusiasm is understandable, though. In the wake of almost every US mass shooting, especially those involving schools or younger male shooters, someone blames violence in entertainment, especially video games.


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