Video Games: Better Than TV For Kids?

Is playing Call of Duty a healthier pastime than watching The Wiggles? A new UK study has found video games have no measurable impact on young children's behaviour. Watching too much television meanwhile, can lead to conduct problems further down the road.

Gaming picture from Shutterstock

Researchers from the UK Medical Research Council measured the TV and gaming habits of 11,014 five year-olds for a period of two years. Mothers were asked to log their children's typical daily television/video/DVD viewing and computer/video game playing via a questionnaire.

The study found that children who were allowed to watch more than three hours of television per day showed a small increase in "conduct problems" by the time they reached seven. However, the time spent playing computer and video games had no impact on behaviour:

Watching TV for 3 h or more at 5 years predicted a 0.13 point increase (95% CI 0.03 to 0.24) in conduct problems by 7 years, compared with watching for under an hour, but playing electronic games was not associated with conduct problems.

Interestingly, the report also found no evidence of gender differences in the effect of screen time. The report also notes that no associations were found between TV/games and emotional symptoms, hyperactivity/inattention, peer relationship problems or prosocial behaviour.

It's worth noting that five year-olds tend to play age-appropriate games which do not contain excessive violence or aggression. On the other hand, most parents are less stringent when it comes to checking the suitability of video games, so there's a high chance that many of the children in the study were in fact playing mature titles.

Do television and electronic games predict children’s psychosocial adjustment? Longitudinal research using the UK Millennium Cohort Study [Archives of Disease in Childhood]


Comments

    Makes sense I guess. Television requires a child to just sit there and stare at it. Games require a child to get involved and work out problems to receive rewards. I'd personally prefer my children play video games, though I wouldn't let them play call of duty at five :P

      I've got a 2yr old and a five yr old and there's no way I'd let them watch 3hrs of tv OR video games.

      Although I guess on the weekends when it's raining 3hrs is just 1 movie and a couple of shows...

      I know he won't answer but what does the journo mean when he says "most parents are less stringent when it comes to checking the suitability of video games"? Is he thinking about his own parents? Most parents now were playing games from a young age. Everyone I know with kids check out games pretty thoroughly before letting them play. I was really disappointed in Bioshock Infinite. Not because it's bad, it's great, but the violence in melee is REALLY full on, so it's another game that I can't let my son see. It's a shame because he'd love the city in the clouds. But that first kill with the skyhook, sheeshk!

        Too many beautiful games are marred by excessive violence :(

          And swearing. I would have no problems having my son watching me play Battlefield 3, except that soldiers are constantly running past you screaming "F this, F that, F'ing..." you get the picture.

          It's not necessary and I wish there was a way to turn it off.

        I meant that most people don't take video game classifications as seriously as they take movie classifications. Many parents will happily let their kids play violent first-person shooters but will restrict violent movies. There's still a perception out there that video games are just for kids -- regardless of how inappropriate they are.

        Oh yeah I wouldn't just let them spend hours doing either, I just meant if I had to choose between the two :P and you'd be surprised at how many parents don't pay attention to what their children are playing. My partner works in retail and gets a lot of parents buying extremely violent games of their young children. Even after my partner tries to discourage them as the game isn't suitable the normal response he gets is "oh but they'll just whinge if I don't get it for them". I agree with Chris, a lot of parents still think video games are for kids. Hopefully the R rating will help change that.

    PC hosts Minecraft server for PE on the kids' iPods.
    This is a reward only - and only if everything else at hand is done (ie, dinner, breakfast, homework, getting dressed, baths, etc).

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