Study Finds Video Games Not Harming Boys’ Development

A new study out of Norway suggests that video games are not harmful for the social development of young boys, as some feared.

A new study finds that the social development of young boys is not harmed by playing video games as some had originally feared.

Playing Video Games Does No Harm to Boys’ Development

In a new study conducted by researchers in Norway found that the social development of young boys is not adversely affected by playing video games as some parents, educators, and policymakers had feared.

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Researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) studied the social development of boys aged 6 to 12 and how video games affected their overall social skills. They discovered that while there were some noticeable effects, broadly speaking, video gaming was deemed not to be associated with social development.

"Our study may mitigate some concerns about the adverse effects of gaming on children's development," said Beate Wold Hygen, a postdoctoral fellow at NTNU, who led the study.

"It might not be gaming itself that warrants our attention, but the reasons some children and adolescents spend a lot of their spare time playing the games."

Determining the Effect Video Games Has on Social Development

The NTNU researchers studied 873 Norwegian children of various socioeconomic backgrounds every other year for six years beginning at age 6 and continuing until age 12.

The children’s parents reported how frequently their children played video games when they were 6 and 8, while the children themselves responded when they were 10 and 12.

The children's teachers filled out questionnaires on the social competency of the children involved, measuring levels of social cooperation, assertiveness, and self-control. The children also reported how often they played video games with their friends.

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Their findings show that overall, boys social development was not associated with the frequency with which they played video games. However, they did find that boys who had lower levels of social competency at ages 6 and 8 tended to play more video games at ages 10 and 12 than their peers. The study also wasn’t limited to boys.

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The researchers studied girls as well and found that in the case of girls, those who played more video games at age 10 had lower levels of social competency at age 12 than girls who did not play video games as often when they were 10.

The key take away for the researchers though was that rather than look at the frequency a child plays video games as the cause of social isolation, it may be the sense of social isolation that drives some children to play video games more frequently.

"It might be that poor social competence drives youth's tendency to play video games for extensive periods of time," said Lars Wichstrøm, professor of psychology at NTNU and coauthor of the study.

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"That is, youth who struggle socially might be more inclined to play games to fulfill their need to belong and their desire for mastery because gaming is easily accessible and may be less complicated for them than face-to-face interactions."

The study was conducted in coordination with the NTNU Social Research, the University of California at Davis, and St. Olav’s Hospital in Norway. The results were published in Child Development.

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