The question of whether video games lead to risky behaviors is one that has been asked by parents, educators, psychologists, and most of the other adults who are routinely around teens. Some video games portray acts of violence (such as stealing cars, driving recklessly, or killing ) while others put the teen in the role of a superhero (such a those based on comic book characters). Is there a difference in how a teen may act in their regular life, while not playing a game, if video games are a hobby?
A researcher recently published a study looking at the potential effects of playing violent or reckless video games (like ones where the user steals cars) and the association with risky behavior. What he found was not all that surprising: teens who play games that portray risky actions (like driving fast) were more likely to have similar actions in real life. While the teen is able to acknowledge a game is not reality, his explanation for the findings was that perhaps the teen’s perception of what was risky is altered by their interactions in the game. But can video games be a positive influence?
Another recent study asked this same question. What was found surprised me a bit. Very modest video game use (less than an hour a day) was associated with higher life satisfaction and social interactions. But this study also found that you can have too much of a good thing! Teens who played more than 3 hours a day were associated with the exact opposite findings (lower psychosocial adjustment).
So what does this mean for parents of gamers?
In general pediatricians recommend no more than 2 hours of screen time a day. This includes TV, computer, video games, tablets, texting, etc. Higher levels of screen time are associated with lower levels of physical activity which can put teens at risk for obesity and complications associated with being over weight (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes).
Limiting violent and reckless games is probably a good idea for everyone. Engaging in reckless behavior (whether virtual or face to face) is associated with consequences.
If you’re concerned your teen may have a gaming addiction seek help. See our previous post of video game addiction for signs and symptoms of gaming addiction.