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Playing video games linked to higher intellectual function, school competence

Researchers say despite positive effects of video game play in a recent study, moderation and parental limits are still a good idea.
By Stephen Feller   |   March 8, 2016 at 4:10 PM

NEW YORK, March 8 (UPI) -- Contrary to popular theory, spending time playing video games may be good for children, according to a study of children in Europe.

Researchers at Columbia University found elementary school-aged children who played video games had nearly twice the odds of high intellectual function and high overall school competence, though they caution against over-interpreting the study.

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The potential harm of video games has long been debated, with previous studies suggesting children learn violence from gameplay, and other aggressive, antisocial behavior.

Other studies have found moderate play -- one hour instead of three hours -- was associated with the most well-adjusted children in a study, which is in line with how researchers in the new study are taking their results.

"Video game playing is often a collaborative leisure time activity for school-aged children," Dr. Katherine Keyes, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Columbia University, in a press release. "These results indicate that children who frequently play video games may be socially cohesive with peers and integrated into the school community."

For the study, published in the journal Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, researchers analyzed data on 3,195 children between the ages of 6 and 11 collected as part of the School Children Mental Health Europe. The children were assessed on school performance, video game usage and behavior by parents, teachers and themselves.

Overall, about 20 percent of children played for more than five hours per week. After adjusting for age, gender, siblings, mother's age, marital status, education, employment status, psychological distress and region, high game play was linked to 1.75 times the chance of high intellectual functioning and 1.88 times the chance of high overall school competence.

There were no significant links to child-, mother-, or teacher-reported mental health problems found in the study. Additionally, more video game playing was associated with fewer relationship problems than children who played less.

The researchers write that playing video games may have positive effects on children, but understanding the ways games stimulate children requires further research.

"We caution against over interpretation, however, as setting limits on screen usage remains and important component of parental responsibility as an overall strategy for student success," Keyes said.

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