LIFE

This Is What A Few Hours Of Gaming Does To Boys' Mental Health

They may be learning digital skills, but at what cost to their happiness?

05/01/2017 9:41 AM AEDT | Updated 06/01/2017 8:59 AM AEDT
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An average of two hours a day is enough to see a link with behavioural problems.

Boys who regularly play video games are more than twice as likely to have emotional and behavioural problems in childhood, but girls aren't similarly affected.

This is one of the findings from the first large population-based study to show clear links between mental health and the amount of time spent using TV, video games and the internet.

The Murdoch Childrens Research Institute study of eight- and nine-year-olds found video gaming boys had greater conduct and emotional problems while watching TV was associated with greater hyperactivity and inattention.

Girls didn't have the same correlation.

TV, Video Games And The Internet

A boy playing an average of two hours per day per week is 2.6-times more likely to have conduct and emotional problems.

A boy watching an average of two hours per day per week (or 14 hours each week) is 1.7-times more likely to have hyperactivity/inattention problems.

Girls of this age were not found to be affected in the same way.

There was no clear link between computer use and emotional and behavioural issues for boys or girls.

Source: Murdoch Childrens Research Institute

Research leader Dr Lisa Mundy said eight- and nine-year-olds were particularly susceptible to the world around them.

"It's the age at which children's use of media begins to escalate," Mundy said in a statement.

"It's also an age at which children are highly sensitive, due to the huge biological, psychological and emotional development, which occurs during this phase of life."

She said researchers couldn't pinpoint how the link between gaming and mental health problems happened.

"It may be that the electronic media causes emotional and behavioural problems -- or it may be that children with these problems spend more time using electronic media," Mundy said.

We know that at this age, playing video games tends to be a solitary experience, whereas watching TV is more likely to occur with the family.Lisa Mundy

"What's important to note is how the nature of the media affects the experience.

"We know that at this age, playing video games tends to be a solitary experience, whereas watching TV is more likely to occur with the family."

The results come from the first wave of data gathered by the Childhood to Adolescence Transition Study -- a group of 1200 children who will be tracked for health and social adjustment as they pass through puberty.



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