Video games are a popular activity among children, but their effects on their health are often viewed negatively. A study by researchers from Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and colleagues from Paris Descartes University examined the association between the time spent playing video games and children's mental health, cognitive and social skills, and found That playing video games can have beneficial effects on young children. Results will be published online in the journal Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology.
After adjusting for the age, gender, and number of children, the researchers found that high video game usage was associated with a 1.75 times chance of high intellectual performance and 1.88 times the chance of high overall school literacy. There were no significant associations with any mental health problems reported by children or by mothers or teachers. The researchers also found that more video games were associated with fewer relationship problems with their peers. According to their parents, one in five children played video games for more than 5 hours a week.
The results were based on data from the School Children Mental Health Europe project for children aged 6 to 11 years. Parents and teachers rated their child's mental health using a questionnaire, and the children themselves answered the questions using an interactive tool. The teachers rated academic achievement. Factors related to the time spent playing video games included being a boy, being older, and being part of a medium-sized family. Having a less educated or single mother reduced the amount of time spent playing video games.
Playing video games is often a common pastime for school-age children. These results suggest that children who play video games frequently have social cohesion with their peers and are integrated into the school community. We caution against over-interpretation, however, as setting screen limits remains an important part of parental responsibility as an overall strategy for academic success, 'said Katherine M. Keyes, PhD, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health .