Contrary to what parents have heard about videogames, a UK study that followed the videogame play and TV viewing of more than 11,000 children for three years found that “exposure to videogames had no effect on [their] behavior, attention or emotional issues,” reports New York-based GamesandLearning.org. The story was a little different with TV viewing, though. The University of Glasgow researchers found that watching TV for more than three hours a day “did lead to a small increase in behavioral problems in youngsters between 5 and 7,” but “neither television nor videogames lead to attentional or emotional problems.”
There has been plenty of research on small children’s TV viewing and some on videogame play but very little comparative work in the impact of both in the same children. The Glasgow researchers said they went into the study thinking that “connections with attention disorders, anger and other problems might be connected to both, but they wanted to see if – “due to active user engagement, identification with characters and repeated rehearsal and reinforcement” in videogame play – games wouldn’t have more powerful effects. They didn’t, except when children were exposed to either for 3 or more hours a day. That level of exposure “was associated with increases in all problems, and (TV only) with reduced prosocial behaviour. Negative effects of exposure for between 1 h and 3 h daily were weaker and less consistent.
Interestingly, the researchers found that “children playing no games were more likely to show increased problems (except peer problems), compared with playing for less than an hour a day.” They found no difference between girls and boys in their analysis. [Here's the study itself.]
- Another study: Another study: “The Benefits of Playing Video Games,” by Isabela Granic, Adam Lobel, and Rutger C. M. E. Engels at Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands (published earlier this year in American Psychologist)
- One very positive impact: HopeLab’s game for young cancer patients, Re-Mission2. Kevin Neilson of HopeLab asked oncologist Peri Kamalakar at Newark, N.J.’s Beth Israel Medical Center about how using Re-Mission2 works. “It’s a very effective tool that helps a child understand what a cancer cell is and how chemotherapy works on cancer cells. As the Chinese proverb goes, a picture is worth 1,000 words, and when that picture is a deeply immersive experience, it’s worth more than that. Re-Mission 2 visually helps a child understand the bad buy (cancer cell) versus the good guy (chemo treatment), and helps the boy or girl grasp the importance of taking medication properly and helps facilitate individual treatment,” Dr. Kamalakar is quoted as saying in the HopeLab blog.
- HopeLab is now developing a game app that fosters resilience, the ability to bounce back from adversity (and one of the all-important internal protections against bullying, for example). It says here that “research has helped identify several major sources of resilience that affect both psychological and biological health”: a sense of purpose, connection to others and “a sense of control over one’s destiny.”