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Why it's game on for kids

Worried your children have spent the summer holidays glued to the Playstation? Don't be. A new study reveals playing video games can actually be good for them

By Katie Wright

A new study, published last week in the journal Pediatrics, has found that children who played video games for up to an hour a day were better adjusted than those who didn't play at all.

A sample of 5,000 10 to 15-year-olds were asked how long they spend gaming, whether on a console or computer, on an average school day.

They were then asked a series of questions to determine how socially and psychologically adjusted their are, for example how satisfied they are with their life and how likely they are to help people in difficulty.

Oxford University's Dr Andrew Przybylski found that kids who gamed for up to an hour a day (about half the sample) were the most sociable and satisfied, the least hyperactive and had fewer emotional problems.

For the 30% who played for one to three hours a day there was no significant effect, positive or negative.

But the 10-15% who gamed for more than three hours daily were shown to be the least adjusted and displayed the most social as well as emotional problems.

Why the difference?

Dr Przybylski believes that children hone their problem-solving abilities when faced with 'cognitive challenges' in video games, and that playing alongside their friends allows them to relax and develop social skills.

So in small doses, gaming is a good thing.

But long periods spent immersed in the world of Fifa 15 means other 'enriching activities', like playing football for real outside. Plus there's the risk of being exposed to violent or sexual content intended for adults.

Provided your kids aren't spending days and nights gaming alone on their Xbox, they're probably okay. As long as they get a balanced diet of old-fashioned outdoor fun and plenty of time with their mates then a few laps round the Mario Kart track won't rot their brains.

In fact, with the new computing curriculum – which sees children as young as five learning coding – starting in September, tech know-how is going to be an extra advantage at school.

Plus, another study this week revealed that the average six-year-old now has the same level of tech knowledge as a 45-year-old.

So maybe it's actually time we all got into gaming.

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