Video Games Can be Good for You, Unless...


By Lisa Jancarik

How much time are the kids in your life spending on console or PC games each day? Have you told them that they are poisoning their minds? Are you right? Well, according to a study out of Oxford University, the best answer may be "it depends."

Behavioral scientist Andrew Przybylski polled 4899 British kids ages 10 to 15 about their emotional states and video game habits. About 75 percent reported playing video games daily. He found that kids who play an hour or less per day of video games tend to be more social and satisfied with life than kids who play for longer periods. Kids who play for one to three hours per day have no benefit, and the kids who play more than three hours per day have some negative effects. It's not surprising to learn that too much time with Mario and Luigi is a problem. The surprise is that the kids who play about an hour per day are also more social and satisfied with life than are kids who play no video games at all.

What Does This Study Mean Exactly?

Przybylski has shown that there is a link between video games and mood, but this does not necessarily mean that one causes the other. He also emphasizes that other factors, like a child's family life and social life at school, are much larger contributors to mood.

He also believes that the benefits of playing video games are lost when time spent on them eats into important enriching activities. In other words, his research isn't an excuse to play Mario Kart instead of practice piano. Another way for a young player to lose the benefit is with exposure to game content that is too mature for them.

The Oxford study is important to researchers in this field because until now, they have been divided into people who think video games are good for kids and people who link them with violence in real life. However, this study shows that time spent on gaming is important, not just whether kids play them at all.

Classroom Discussion

  • How might video games be helpful? They are thought to improve eyesight, help kids with dyslexia and even relieve pain.
  • Do you talk about video games with your friends? Dr. Przybylski says that children may feel cut off socially if they can't participate in this kind of conversation with their peers.