News Article

UK Study Finds No Link Between Video Games And Behavioural Problems In Children

Posted by Damien McFerran

11,000 youngsters accessed in scientific research

A study by The University of Glasgow of around 11,000 children has found that no connection exists between playing video games at an early age and problems with behaviour later on in life.

Researchers asked mothers to note the amount of time their children played games and to report on any issues occurring later on. Time spent watching television was also noted, as the team behind the study reasoned that attention disorders and other issues could be attributed to both mediums.

The key findings were:

  • Exposure to video games had no effect on behaviour, attention or emotional issues
  • Watching 3 or more hours of television at age 5 did lead to a small increase in behavioural problems in youngsters between 5 and 7
  • Neither television nor video games lead to attentional or emotional problems
  • There was no difference between boys and girls in the survey results

Although the study was entirely dependant on the parents of the children accurately reporting average screen time and subsequent problematic behaviour, the that fact the results were common over 13,000 families leaves little room for doubt. The team behind the research also stated that they took into account different approaches to parenting — as well as the backgrounds of each family — in order to ensure the results were fair.

The study counters similar research in the US which claims that video games have a negative impact on young children.


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User Comments (35)



Captain_Toad said:

There. Now this age-long rumor about video games causing violence among children and everyone else has been debunked.



PanurgeJr said:

@mariobro4 Debinking only matters if people listen and learn. The narrative that gaming causes violence will be harder to overcome than with a handful of studies.



MikeLove said:

Not everyone who plays Call of Duty is a mass murder, but every mass murderer plays Call of Duty.



Einherjar said:

Tune in next week when its stated that studys found a link between video games and behavioural problems in children.
The result of these studys is a different each day, whatever suits the media best at the time. Its launch time of two new consoles, whats better than to tell sceptical parents that video games arent evil ?
As soon as the next incident happens, video games are the first to blame again, count on it.



DrMonk said:

Still, 11,000 is a pretty impressive sample size. It did only measure across 2 years though (from age 5 to age 7), so it doesn't measure any effects over a longer period or later on in life (not that I expect them to exist, but that's what critics of the study might say).



Shiryu said:

That poor kid... playing a PSP when all he wanted was a good ol' Game Boy.



unrandomsam said:

My concentration has improved since starting to play games again. (Only ones that require perfection and memorising the levels though.) The rest are as mindless as TV.



ikki5 said:

Yeah, videos games do have an affect....not for violence though, they just keep getting more spoiled



Gioku said:

Well good! I always knew my behavioral problems had nothing to do with my playing video games... jk

Great study. More people need to do similar studies - if they all have similar findings, we can finally put this rumor to rest and play video games in peace.



Geonjaha said:

Just like pretty much all the other studies. Why is time still being put into disproving this speculation that exists primarily in the older generations?



unrandomsam said:

Funny how the use of social networking which certainly causes behavioural problems in otherwise reasonable adults never gets the same type of coverage. (Probably because the people who would write about it use the same thing themselves).



sdelfin said:

@unrandomsam, I've had a similar experience. Some games have noticeably improved my ability to focus. I just have to avoid playing them too much as that can leave me feeling fatigued mentally.



startropics3 said:

The problem with both this study and the 2010 US study it cites is that they cannot infer causation. While the 2013 study is more informative than the 2010 study, it still relies on observational data. Plus, the 2010 study had some very weak correlations between attention disorders and tv/game time, with the strongest correlation basically stating that children with attention problems at the start of the study still had them 13 months later. A major problem with the 2013 study in this news post is that the distribution of game exposure was skewed to the longer play times, giving little statistical power to the groups that played >3 hours per day (only 3% of the sample and hence the lack of significant effects from that group). Even with no significance, effects were very low, as in the 2010 study.

A lack of strong effects is still an interesting result. The childhood problems may have more to do with parenting and social status than with tv or video games. That would be a good hypothesis to test, especially if they aren't inherently-linked factors.



Haxonberik said:

I thought at first the article was going to be about a Link Between Worlds while reading the title...



efaulk84 said:

The Wii is the most Violent system ever made. That Wii Mote you could poke someone's eye out with that thing.



timp29 said:

Who paid for this research? It would be interesting to see if there are any vested interests.

@startropics3 that's some great info thanks!



Alienfish said:

Finally, some legitimate confirmation on the subject to throw in the face of angry parents looking for something to blame for their bad parenting.



IceClimbers said:

Clearly the study wasn't done on kids playing Mario Kart. That damn blue shell can cause violence. Then there's Mario Party, which destroys friendships.



Bender said:

You know, my mother would get mad at me for playing games whenever a school shooting would happen. She'd blame the violence of the games for it, which is funny, since I have never ONCE bought a COD or BF title EVER. They never really appeal to me.. She apparently found issues with me playing Metroid Prime, which I think is hilarious... Now I'm an adult with a healthy relationship and am working up for a degree in computer science/software development so I can work in the gaming industry. Video games made me a more well-adjusted, inspired, and hard-working person.



BulbasaurusRex said:

@mariobro4 This study was only about playing video games at an early age, probably looking for issues like AD(H)D and throwing temper tantrums. Just how many of these 5 to 7 year olds do you think were playing M rated games?



startropics3 said:

@B3ND3R I would think those games would improve your spatial and temporal awareness (reacting to events and memorizing your surroundings) more than make someone outwardly violent, although I didn't grow up in this generation of shooters; the analogs of my childhood were Contra, Jackal, and, later, Doom. I don't remember any mature ratings, but then they didn't feel like mature games to me. I always thought of Populus, Civilization, or SimCity as more mature, as in, more intellectual. They definitely intimidated me more than any shooter, and it's a shame because those patient and thoughtful sims had much more depth than a violent shooter.

It wouldn't surprise me if kids played more FPS today as those sims require quick instead of complex decisions, and thus generally easier choices to make; should you go left or right down a hall?, should I move slow or fast towards an enemy?, should I shoot now or wait until I have a better shot? There is also less at stake in most shooters, and less consequences for bad decisions. You take a few hits, but eventually heal. You were killed, but will restart with your weapons and ammo nearby.



garfreek said:

I found that a lot of the special needs kids I teached loved video games. I'd really encourage those kids to play ninty games! The autism kids get a place where they can retreat to (but where rules are clear and they decide what happens). And a.d.d kids learn to focus on certain things, and pay attention.



Desu13 said:

Suck science, soccer moms. Your reign of blaming others for your child's developmental issues is OVER.



Bender said:

@startropics3 Exactly, games used to TRY to make you see a game over screen and restart xD I grew up on NES and SNES and have very fond memories of games such as Kid Icarus, Ninja Gaiden, Castlevania and Contra (among many others)... I honestly just don't see how anyone can enjoy a game where you run out, shoot a couple guys until you eventually die, then jump back in to repeat the same exact process. I like games that are challenging and highly rewarding, which seem to be a dying breed as more hand-holding games have been coming out as of late... When I get into the industry my aim is to reintroduce fun into gaming, where the joy is learning the ins and outs of a game and learning tricks for yourself. THOSE kinds of games are rewarding, since you can learn something you can show your friends, much like how Zelda was on the NES. Games are special to me, and I can't wait to finish my projects and get into the industry



startropics3 said:

@B3ND3R I recently tried my hand at Duck Tales for the NES, and it was way more difficult than I remember. After a couple attempts at the hardest difficulty, I switched to easy for a comparison; I still lost all my Scrooge dolls and was forced to restart from the beginning! Talk about consequences.

I enjoy a challenging game, but I'm not masochistic; I want to feel rewarded for overcoming a punishing trial. I think consequences for wise and poor decisions will increase the enjoyment felt, but they should be thoughtful consequences, not just an achievement trophy or a free retry; no one should get those in reality, so why should you in a fantasy world? The creators of Dark Souls reached a near perfect balance of challenge and consequence. Death means potentially losing your hard earned currency, and exploring is rarely dull due to the constant threat of traps, enemies that are usually much stronger than you, and online invaders that are usually more skilled than you. Sometimes the rewards are subtle, such as a gorgeous view, but the fragility of your circumstance makes you appreciate the view because it feels earned.

Fun itself is a vague goal. People have fun building a house or looking at birds (not that those are boring activities). It seems like many games are given high scores because the reviewer had fun, but sadly he/she rarely explains why. I think there is more to a game's design goal than for a majority of its audience to have fun. It is right below the surface, in the task you are given over and over again. Once you realize it, you can ask if the game is really hitting the mark or only grazing the surface of the core mechanic's potential. Or maybe the mechanic is rehashed so many times, it needs a break (Are you really getting anything new with each realistic military shooter? Can we turn the mechanic on its head, much like GoldenEye did to Doom and Quake?). Every player, creator, and reviewer should ask, "What is it about these games I love that makes them fun?" For example, why do so many people love Minecraft? Do they feel drawn to the pixelated environment? Do they feel satisfaction from the task of hunting and crafting? Do they feel ownership by adding a personally-created estate to the community? Once you figure out what it is, you can either repeat it with bigger budgets towards visuals (GTA V), or play and experiment with it (Zelda 2). This seems very psychological, and it should because games are simulations of our desires, but the core mechanic that we desire to experience and sometimes repeat is masked by visuals and plots. However, I've never made a game, so don't think of me as any authority; I just enjoy ranting.

I hope you are given the opportunity to make something from your experience and emotion, something that gives you a lot of pride. The first Zelda was from Miyamoto-san's childhood. It was a game about a memory of a feeling: wonder and mystery from exploring caves.



Bender said:

@startropics3 I agree with you fully. And I'm actually learning how to develop and design games, hoping to eventually land a job at Retro Studios. Miyamoto-san is my biggest influence in life, I grew up with all of his works of art and look forward to making art of my own.
Some day I hope to create a game that is built off of my childhood memories and dreams, and I hope to attempt to remind people why we game to begin with. This is my dream/ambition, and I intend to see it through.

P.S.- I too find Duck Tales to be quite a worthy challenge xD I played my NES copy for a LONG time when I got it, and I fell in love all over again with Duck Tales Remastered on my Wii U. (my Wii U name is Bendercade if you're looking to add some people)

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