Turns Out, Play is Play, Even If It’s a Videogame

Approximate Reading Time: 2 minutes

Well that’s nice to hear. Children get the same value from playing videogames as they do from other forms of imaginative play.

A Surprising New Study On How Video Games Impact Children.

However, the findings do indicate “that electronic play has salutary functions similar to traditional forms of play; they present opportunities for identity development as well as cognitive and social challenges.” In other words, video games are comparable to other kinds of imaginative play. And play, most folks tend to agree, is of vital importance. Adults and children need more of it. However, the popular notion that somehow video games belong in a different category–such as ‘bad play’–is absurd

In fact, Dr. Przybylski’s study suggests that there’s little distinction between gaming and other favorable activities. “Compared with factors shown to have robust and enduring effects on child well-being such as family functioning, social dynamics at school, and material deprivations, the current study suggests the influences of electronic gaming, for good or ill, are not practically significant.”
That’s a pretty shocking finding. And I imagine many parents will accept that all of those whimsical Nintendo family games are fine, even potentially beneficial when played as a family. There have been a ton of studies that show the positive impact of family gaming. Still, what about age-inappropriate gaming? Surely conscientious parents will object that first person shooters, other violent games, and sexual imagery must be unhealthy for young kids. After all, these things are immoral; we must protect our children from these dangerous temptations, right? Not necessarily.

On the contrary, Dr. Przybylski’s study suggests that the ratings of games hardly correlate to typical conceptions we have of ‘healthy’ development of prosocial behaviors. Age-inappropriate gaming did not significantly impact the results (at least not when compared to movies and television). The study indicates that “the negative effects of age-inappropriate gaming on hostile thoughts, feelings, and real world behaviors are substantively smaller than those observed for passive forms of media entertainment.”

Still, don’t let your kids play games all day long. “Results from the current study also showed that children who spend more than half their daily free time [playing video games] showed more negative adjustment.” As long as the kids play three or less hours a day things are fine. But go over three hours and things change. “Compared with non-players, these players reported higher levels of both externalizing and internalizing problems and lower levels of prosocial behavior and life satisfaction.”

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