Playing video games may be beneficial to children if they do so for a limited amount of time each week otherwise it be detrimental to their health.
In their study of 2442 children aged 7 to 11 years, the researchers found that playing video games for one hour per week was associated with better motor skills and higher school achievement scores. No further benefits were observed in children playing more than two hours each week.
The most troubling finding of the study is that weekly time spent gaming was steadily linked with conduct problems, peer conflicts, and reduced social abilities.
Such negative effects were especially prominent in children who played nine or more hours of video games each week.
“Video gaming per se is neither good nor bad, but its level of use makes it so,” said Dr Pujol.
By observing the magnetic resonance imaging scans of the brains of a subgroup of children in the study, researchers noted that gaming was linked with changes in basal ganglia white matter and functional connectivity.
“Gaming use was associated with better function in brain circuits critical for learning based on the acquisition of new skills through practice,” Dr Pujol explained. “Children traditionally acquire motor skills through action, for instance in relation to sports and outdoor games. Neuroimaging research now suggests that training with desktop virtual environments is also capable of modulating brain systems that support motor skill learning.”
The study has published in the Annals of Neurology.