A massive study of some 11,000 youngsters in Britain has found that playing video games, even as early as five years old, does not lead to later behavior problems.
The University of Glasgow study used surveys of mothers in a massive millennial survey to track behavior over time. The idea was to study whether researchers could draw a connection between screen time and behavioral or emotional troubles later.
Headed into the study, the authors wanted to study both television and video games, arguing that connections with attention disorders, anger and other problems might be connected to both. Still, researchers wondered if “games may have more powerful effects due to active user engagement, identification with characters and repeated rehearsal and reinforcement.”
- Exposure to video games had no effect on behavior, attention or emotional issues.
- Watching 3 or more hours of television at age 5 did lead to a small increase in behavioral 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.
This survey relied on parents reporting average screen time and later behavioral problems, but the size of the research pool – more than 13,000 families – left researchers confident their results were solid. Researchers also said they modified the results to take into account various parenting approaches and socio-economic differences.
These results do break some new ground. It was one of the first real studies that examined games in connection with television viewing while also assessing them separately. It also runs counter to some research in the U.S. with older children that has found connections between screen time and attention issues.