Many of us are used to hearing the arguments that video games are bad for children, but there's now peer-reviewed research indicating that the opposite may be true.
A study - conducted by Oxford University, and published in the medical journal Pediatrics - tested nearly 5,000 children, and compared those who played no video games at all with those that played them for various amounts of time per day. For those who insist that such games do nothing but destroy the minds of children, the results may well prove eye-opening.
An estimated 75% of under-18s in the UK play video games at least once a day, but it was those that played for up to an hour a day that saw the greatest benefits.
"Young people who indulged in a little video game-playing were associated with being better adjusted than those who had never played," according to the study. "Those who played video games for less than an hour... were associated with the highest levels of sociability and were most likely to say they were satisfied with their lives. They also appeared to have fewer friendship and emotional problems, and reported less hyperactivity than the other groups."
It was only those who played for periods longer than three hours every day that saw measurably negative or 'harmful' effects. Around 10-15% of children spend such long amounts of time gaming each day, and the study found that these young persons were typically 'less well-adjusted', as The Telegraph reports. The study suggested that this was because such "excessive" periods of gaming were potentially depriving them of "other enriching activities", such as socializing with friends or physical exercise.
Nonetheless, the study found that the effects - both positive and negative - of gaming on a child's behaviour and development were fairly small overall. Although the research found that playing lots of video games seems to be "only weakly linked to children's behavioural problems in the real world", it also found that "the small, positive effects we observed for low levels of [gaming] do not support the idea that video games on their own can help children to develop in an increasingly digital world."
The author of the report on which the study was based, Dr Andrew Przybylski, suggested that more research was needed. Even so, it seems that gaming isn't quite as corrosive to the wellbeing, mental health and development of a child as some people would like you to believe. But don't just park your kids in front of a console for all hours of the day and expect them to turn out as well-rounded individuals.