A new study published by researchers at the University of Oxford in JMIR Pediatrics and Educationshows that although many school-age teenagers are spending considerable time playing games, this does not have a negative effect on well-being.
The OxWell Student Survey is one of the largest school surveys on the health and well-being of young people in England. More than 12,000 high school aged students (12-18 years old) took part in the latest survey in June-July 2021 and provided information on how much they play.
Almost a third (31.2%) of students who answered questions about their games said they spent at least 3.5 hours a day playing games on any electronic device (“heavy” gamers), while a fifth (21.8 %) said they do not participate in any games. The study revealed different profiles of teenagers who play for longer periods of time based on their psychological well-being, how much time they spent playing games on different electronic devices, and how much control they have over their gaming behavior.
They found that most of the “heavy” players did not experience any negative effects on their well-being, and 44% of “heavy” players reported greater well-being than those who play games less or not at all.
Lead author Dr Simona Skripkauskaite of Oxford’s Department of Experimental Psychology and Psychiatry, said: “Our findings suggest that there is a shift in the way teenagers spend their free time, with a significant proportion choosing to spend most of their time playing video games. It is reassuring to see that for most this is not associated with co-occurring welfare problems or mental ill-health.”
“These findings suggest that rather than worrying about the amount of time spent playing video games, we should explore the potential of video games as a potential tool to find more cost-effective, creative and less stigmatizing ways to reach and help youth who have in emotional and behavioral difficulties. “
However, the study shows that this was not the case for everyone. 1 in 12 teens who were “heavy” gamers reported a loss of control over gaming and feelings of well-being. They were more likely to be female and report a game on their mobile phones. However, they were also more likely to report past experiences of abuse or anxiety and aggressive behavior, suggesting that those with traumatic experiences and mental health problems may turn to gaming as a coping mechanism.
Co-author Mina Fazel, Professor of Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Oxford’s School of Psychiatry, said: “Our findings are similar to those of adult gaming groups and highlight that the majority do not experience the negative effects of gaming. However, there is an important subgroup of young people who are more likely to show signs about heavy game use and lower mental health, and these findings can help us identify those young people who are more likely to be women who are playing on their phones.”
Simona Skripkauskaite et al., Time Spent Gaming, Device Type, Level of Addiction and Well-being of Young English Gamers in the OxWell Survey 2021: Latent Profiling, JMIR Pediatrics and Education (2022). DOI: 10.2196/41480
Provided by Oxford University
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