Public Release:  Study examines video game play among adolescents

The JAMA Network Journals

On school days, teen boys who play video games appear to spend less time reading and teen girls who play video games appear to spend less time doing homework than those who do not play video games, according to a report in the July issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals. Overall, video game players did not spend less time than non-video game players interacting with parents and friends.

"The rapid growth of video game popularity has generated concern among practitioners, parents, scholars and politicians," according to background information in the article. "Particularly during adolescence, when social interactions and academic success lay the groundwork for health in adulthood, there is concern that video games will interfere with the development of skills needed to make a successful transition to adulthood."

Hope M. Cummings, M.A., of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and Elizabeth A. Vandewater, Ph.D., of the University of Texas at Austin collected survey data from a nationally representative sample of 1,491 10- to 19-year olds during the 2002 to 2003 school year. Twenty-four-hour time use diaries were collected from the participants on one randomly chosen weekday and one randomly chosen weekend day. The teens recorded their time spent playing video games, with parents and friends, reading and doing homework and in sports and active leisure.

A total of 534 teens (36 percent) played video games. Most of these (425 [80 percent]) were boys and 109 (20 percent) were girls. "Female gamers spent an average of 44 minutes playing on the weekdays and one hour and four minutes playing on the weekends," the authors write. "Male gamers spent an average of 58 minutes playing on the weekdays and one hour and 37 minutes playing on the weekends."

"For boys on the weekends and for girls on the weekdays, more time spent playing video games without parents was related to less time spent with parents doing other activities," the authors write. The more time girls spent playing video games with their parents, the more time they spent in other activities with them as well. On weekends, the more time boys and girls spent playing video games without their friends, the less time they spent in other activities with them and the more time they spent playing video games with their friends, the more time they spent in other activities with them. Compared with non-video game-players, adolescents who played video games spent 30 percent less time reading and 34 percent less time doing homework.

"Although we focused on the relationship between time spent in video game play and other activities among adolescents, an important next step for future research will be to assess the ways in which video game play is related to academic and social outcomes among American youth," they conclude. "... Our results indicate that game play has different social implications for girls and boys who play. Future studies aimed at understanding how and why girls vs. boys use game play to fulfill different social needs are warranted."

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(Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2007;161(7):684-689. Available pre-embargo to the media at www.jamamedia.org.)

Editor's Note: This study was funded by grants from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The Children's Digital Media Center at the University of Texas at Austin is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation. The Panel Study of Income Dynamics Child Development Supplement is funded by grants from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Please see the article for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, financial disclosures, funding and support, etc.

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