Young people spend a lot of time playing video games these days.
Whether they're building new worlds on Minecraft, doing battle on Call of Duty, committing mayhem on Grand Theft Auto, or roaming any of the other countless virtual worlds available to them, video games have transformed the way most teenagers spend their free time in recent years. According to the latest Neilsen 360 report, over two-thirds of the U.S. population aged 13 and high now consider themselves gamers and the saturation point has likely not even been reached yet.
As for the total amount of time spent playing these games, recent surveys suggest that children aged 12 to 15 spend up to 12.2 hours a week in 2017 alone and this number is even greater in older teens.. Even in younger children between the ages of 3 and 4, the time spent playing video games can average 5.6 hours a week or more. Given the popularity of game playing, it's hardly surprising that parents and teachers have been worrying about the possible harmful effects as well as the long-term effects that video games might have on child development. While much of this concern has been focused on the often violent content of video games and whether it might lead to greater aggression, other researchers have warned about possible health issues including loss of sleep and reduced social functioning.
But research looking at the impact of video gaming on school achievement has been more controversial. While some studies suggest that intensive video gaming can have a negative effect on school achievement, other studies have shown the exact opposite. Part of the problem with this kind of research is that most of the studies carried out have been cross-sectional making it extremely difficult to make assumptions about cause and effect. In other words, do video games affect school performance or are academic underachievers simply more likely to play video games?
To read more, check out my new Psychology Today blog post.