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Playing Electronic Games for a Short Time May Be Beneficial, but Excessive Use Can Have the Opposite Effect

Children and teens who spend a small amount of time playing electronic games may be better-adjusted than those who never play, or who play too much, according to a study in the September 2014 Pediatrics (published online Aug. 4).

Researchers looked at data on nearly 5,000 boys and girls aged 10 to 15 years, from the UK Understanding Society Household Longitudinal Study. They assessed the number of hours per day each participant reported engaging with console-based or computer-based games, and also noted various psychosocial factors reported by the children and teens. These included, for example, hyperactivity and inattention; empathy; peer relationships; and general satisfaction with their lives. They found that playing for less than one hour per day was linked to positive indicators of psychosocial adjustment, compared with those who did not spend any time playing games. No effects were found for those who played for moderate amounts of time, between 1 and 3 hours each day.

They concluded that there are potential benefits for children who engage in low levels of daily game play, and downsides for those who play too much. They also noted that time limits were not the only factors that had a possible effect, but that the types of games and even the types of devices may matter. Although the associations in this study were small, the authors suggested that this may be a promising area for future research.

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8/4/2014 12:15 AM
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