Children and Parent Relationships Enhanced by Video Games

Playing video games has several behavioral and health effects on adolescents. This study tried to explain what effect parents playing these games with their children would have. The answers from questionnaires gave positive feedback, particularly for girls. The results seemed to support the development of good bonding between the girls and their parents, achieved by parents playing video games with their daughters. Unwanted behavior and aggression from video games was reduced and social interactions improved when parents played along.

Research has shown that adolescents who play video games unsuitable for their age show a greater tendency towards “internalizing and aggressive behavior.” Also, with an increase in frequency of playing such games, the children tended to score lower grades and were presented with more psychological and health issues, as compared to other children who played video games to a lesser extent. Generally, parents adopt one of three strategies for video game playing: (1) restrictive mediation by instituting rigid rules, (2) active mediation by questioning the children about the content in the games, and lastly (3) co-viewing or co-playing the games with their children. The recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Communications and Media favor the co-viewing or co-playing of video games. At the same time, there is also the fear of co-playing being misinterpreted by children as encouragement from parents. Per the authors, “although several studies have examined co-viewing in a television context, to our knowledge, research has not examined the effects of co-playing video games.” Hence this study was conducted to understand its impact on adolescents.

* 287 families with children, aged between 11 and 16 years who played video games, were included in this study. Information was collected by interviews and questionnaires.
* Age-inappropriateness of the games, the time spent playing video games and the levels of anxiety, depression, misbehavior or social aspects of behavior of the children were assessed during the survey.
* Both the mother and father of the children participated in this study.

* Co-playing was reported by approximately half the children. This practice was not related to family income, but negatively correlated to mother’s age.
* Boys showed higher tendency to be more addicted to the video games and going astray, specifically playing games unsuitable for their age.
* The responses by girls gave a clear picture of a decrease in aggressive and criminal thinking, while improving in the pro-social nature.

Shortcoming/Next steps
Longitudinal data should be gathered to ascertain long-lasting results. It is likely that the gender of the parent affects the events and outcomes of co-playing and hence it needs to be recorded. A more comprehensible measure of co-playing is by measuring the time spent, and not how many times per week co-playing occurs. So future studies need to take these points into consideration and be modeled accordingly.

Co-playing did not have a significant role among boys, but was favorable in girls, probably because of the higher levels of parent–child connectedness with girls. Playing together makes children feel secure and reinforces the bond between child and parent. Also, co-playing endorses quality time spent with the daughter(s) and encourages healthy conversation. This study is the first attempt to demonstrate the positive effects of playing video games with parents on adolescents. With video games becoming widespread and very popular, co-playing (at least with girls) could offer a good chance for parents to stay connected to their child and could possibly take away some of the negative effects of playing video games.

For More Information:
Associations between Co-playing Video Games and Adolescent Behavioral and Family Outcomes
Publication Journal: Journal of Adolescent Health, 2011
By Sarah M. Coyne, PhD; Laura M. Padilla-Walker, PhD; School of Family Life, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.

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