A new study by Yale University suggests that video gaming may lead to unhealthy behaviors for a minority of the teen population. This minority of students may be more likely to smoke, drink, do drugs, or be more aggressive. For years, there has been research and debate trying to link video gaming to aggressive behaviors, particularly in boys. This new research is one of the first of its kind to study gaming being associated with specific health behaviors.
“The study suggests that, in and of itself, gaming does not appear to be dangerous to kids,” said study author Rani Desai, an associate professor of psychiatry and public health at the Yale University School of Medicine. “We found virtually no association between gaming and negative health behaviors, particularly in boys.” “However, a small but not insignificant proportion of kids find themselves unable to control their gaming,” she said. “That’s cause for concern because that inability is associated with a lot of other problem behaviors.”
In the study, the “problem gamers” are characterized by three things: trying and failing to decrease the number of hours they play, feeling an uncontrollable urge to play, and experiencing stress or tension that only video games could relieve. Desai noted, “Frequency is not a determining factor in the study. While problem gamers may in fact spend more hours at play, the hallmark of problem gaming is the inability to resist the impulse.”
Of the teens surveyed, 76 percent of boys and over 29 percent of girls reported playing video games. Sixty-one percent reported gaming less than seven hours a week, while about 11 percent reported spending 20 or more hours a week gaming.
Boys that reported playing video games also reported having a higher grade point average in school and were more likely to not smoke and say no to drugs. Desai concludes, “The fact that gaming in boys is linked to healthier behaviors may mean that, for boys it’s normal to play video games.” For girl gamers, those who play were found more likely to get in fights or cause trouble at school. “This finding may not suggest that gaming leads to aggression but that more aggressive girls are attracted to gaming,” Desai said.
The full study was published November 15 in the online edition of Pediatrics.