Thursday, 16 July 2015

Video gaming: it's all about moderation!

We have recently published an article in the Journal of Youth Studies entitled “Video gaming in adolescence: factors associated with leisure time use1.

Since video games first emerged in the 1970’s, with the likes of Pong and Space Invaders, the video game industry has become a significant sector of the economy; in the UK alone 1.4 million copies of Call of Duty Black Ops™ were bought on the games launch day2. Video games are now a regular feature of adolescent leisure time, with a recent UK based study suggesting 3 out of 4 young people play video games on a daily basis3. Technological developments have resulted in the gaming experiencing becoming increasingly more versatile; with the ability to play online with friends, interact physically with games and access games through mobile apps.

Traditionally much research has focused on the negative effects of playing video games. Studies have suggested video game play is associated with poorer mental health4 and impaired academic achievement5. In particular there is considerable debate around the implications of playing violent video games, with research suggesting that violent video game playing may be linked to an increase in aggressive behaviours6. More recently, research has begun to address the positive aspects of video gaming including improved social skills and problem solving7. Przybylski (2014) suggested a more nuanced understanding of gaming compared with the traditional dichotomous good vs bad divide; young people who played games for up to 1 hour a day demonstrated more positive outcomes than those who didn’t play at all, while the opposite was true for those who played for more than 3 hours a day.

Considering the potential negative outcomes of video game play, many countries and associations have issued recommended guidelines. In the UK, the Public Health Outcomes Framework9 is concerned with the negative impact of game play beyond moderate leisure time use, and as such is committed to monitoring levels of game play exceeding 2 hours or more. 

Data from the 2010 Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) study in England10 identified  20% of girls and 55% of boys were playing video games for two or more hours on weekdays. Figure 1 (summarising HBSC England 2010 data) shows boys are more likely than girls to report playing video games for 2 or more hours a day during the week across all ages. Compared with data from the HBSC England 2006 survey, the proportion of both boys and girls who reported playing for more than two hours had significantly increased.

Our paper identified associations between young peoples’ video gaming levels and their social environment as well as their health and wellbeing. In line with previous work3, our research suggests video gaming is not intrinsically positive or negative. For boys, being in the middle category for game play was associated with having more friends of the opposite sex than those in the lowest category; and for girls it was associated with engaging in more family activities. In contrast, the highest levels of video gaming were found to be associated with negative aspects for both boys and girls. In particular, boys who reported playing video games for more than 4 hours a day during the week were more likely to report going to bed hungry, bullying others and being bullied.

The analysis demonstrates the important role parents play in structuring and regulating levels of video gaming among young people. Young people who reported their parents had a say in deciding how they spent their free time were less likely to play video games at the higher levels compared with those who had no parental input. However we found an interesting relationship between level of parental control and video gaming which supports the “boomerang effect” where young people with strictest parental mediation actually played video games more frequently!

For a more thorough discussion of this research you can access the published paper by clicking here.    

By clicking here, you can also read a guest blog post written by Sam and Tom (both aged 15) to find out what young people themselves think about video games.


  1. Brooks, F.M., Chester, K.L., Smeeton, N.C. & Spencer, N. (2015). Video gaming in adolescence: factors associated with leisure time use. Journal of Youth Studies, DOI: 10.1080/13676261.2015.1048200
  2. Dring, C. (2010). Black Ops smashes UK day 1 record. Retrieved 18th March 2015, from
  3. Przybylski, A.K. (2014). Electronic gaming and psychosocial adjustment. Pediatrics, 134(3), 1-7.
  4. Page, A.S., Cooper, A.R., Griew, P. & Jago, R. (2010). Children's screen viewing is related to psychological difficultiesirrespective of physical activityPediatrics, 126(5), e1011-e1017.
  5. Jaruratanasirikul, S., Wongwaitaweewong, K. & Sangsupawanich, P. (2009). Electronic game play and school performance of adolescents in southern Thailand. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 12(5), 509-512. 
  6. Gentile, D.A., Lynch, P.J., Linder, J.R. & Walsh, D.A. (2004). The effects of violent video game habits on adolescent hostility, aggressive behaviors, and school performance. Journal of Adolescence, 27(1), 5-22.
  7. Adachi, P.J.C. & Willoughby, T. (2013). More than just fun and games: the longitudinal relationships between strategic videogames, self-reported problem solving skills, and academic grades. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 42(7), 1041-1052.
  8. Department of Health. (2012). Report of the Children and Young Person’s Health Outcomes Forum. Retrieved 18th March 2015, from
  9. Brooks, F., Magnusson, J., Klemera, E., Spencer, N. & Morgan, A. (2011). HBSC England National Report. Findings from the2010 HBSC study for England. Hatfield: University of Hertfordshire.

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