Can video games help children be happier & better adjusted?

Around the world today, children are likely leaping with joy as they formulate the pitch to their parents on why they should get a new gaming console for Christmas. Research by Andrew Przybylski Ph.D., published in the journal Pediatrics following analysis of gaming habit surveys of 5,000 UK children aged between 10 and 15, indicates that a small amount of daily game play, less than an hour, can have a small but positive impact on the development of children.

Low levels (<1 hour daily) as well as high levels (>3 hours daily) of game engagement was linked to key indicators of psychosocial adjustment. Low engagement was associated with higher life satisfaction and prosocial behavior and lower externalizing and internalizing problems, whereas the opposite was found for high levels of play. No effects were observed for moderate play levels when compared with non-players.

Since 2005, Dr Przybylski, a behavioral scientist based at the Oxford Internet Institute has had a particular interest on the role of motivation as people engage with virtual environments for instance, video games or social media. Dr Przybylski’s work is thought-provoking: when you read the findings of other studies or work in related fields, for instance, University of Toronto on the potential spacial cognition improvements that video-game play can bring – perhaps even closing the gender gap, or say, the work of Prof. John Suler on dissociative imagination in the context of the recent high profile social media trolling, the need for thought-provoking work in this sector becomes more apparent, and it’s work that can help contextualise the motivation, potential and impact of online worlds on developing minds.

As a ‘quick-start guide’ I’ve referenced below some of the work by Dr Przybylski and a couple of other useful places to start if you’re interested in virtual worlds, and the motivation within those worlds.

  1. Electronic Gaming and Psychosocial Adjustment : Andrew K. Przybylski, Pediatrics
  2. The ideal self at play: The appeal of videogames that let you be all you can be.  Przybylski, A. K., Weinstein, N., Murayama, K., Lynch, M. F., & Ryan, R. M. (2012)
  3. Playing an Action Video Game Reduces Gender Differences in Spatial Cognition : Jing Feng, Ian Spence, and Jay Pratt : PDF
  4. Virtual worlds and the learner hero: How today’s video games can inform tomorrow’s digital learning environments : Rigby, C. S., & Przybylski, A. K.
  5.  Who believes electronic games cause real-world aggression?  : Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking 17 (4) 228-234 : Przybylski, A.K. (2014)
  6. Andrew Przybylski, Ph.D. : Selected Presentations
  7. Self-Determination Theory : University of Rochest : E. Deci, Prof. R. Ryan, University of Rochester
  8. Why the Internet won’t get you any more friends : Prof. Robin Dunba : Keble College Creativity Lecture series

Thanks to Steven Andrews for his self-portrait: main image
Used under cç licence : nc/2.0/

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