By: Terrill Bravender, MD, MPH
|Photo by OakleyOriginals via Flickr|
With more than 97 percent of adolescents reporting video game use, “gaming” is the new normal. In the September issue of Pediatrics, Dr. Andrew Przybylski (doi: 10.1542/peds.2013-4021) presents a fascinating population-based study of the effects of self-reported daily video game use on measures of psychosocial adjustment. No matter how you feel about video games, you will likely be intrigued.
While moderate levels of game play (defined as one to three hours daily) had no effect on adjustment indicators, those teens who reported playing for more than three hours daily indicated higher levels of internalizing and externalizing problems as well as lower levels of prosocial behavior. This is unlikely to surprise any parent who has tried to get an online teenager to turn away from the video screen, disconnect the headphone and microphone, and go outside to try to experience something IRL (“in real life” for the uninitiated).
However, the news is not all bad for the adolescents who use video games in moderation: Those teens who reported playing for less than one hour daily had higher levels of prosocial behavior than those teens who said they never played. These low-level players also reported lower levels of internalizing and externalizing problems.
The author contends that low-level playing might help children work through social and cognitive challenges online without taking too much time away from their offline lives. Although the results are fascinating and statistically significant, the reader must keep in mind that the effects are small, with video games only accounting for 0.3 to 1.5 percent of the variability in their measures. Even so, these small effects are broad, and may help create a more nuanced understanding of the behavioral and developmental effects of video games.