Once again, researchers have studied the effects of video games and television watching on the well-being of children. These researchers used data from 3,600 children from across Europe that had been collected as part of a study on childhood obesity.
The results are subtle and mixed. The researchers tried hard to account for other factors that might influence children such as the family’s socioeconomic status, household income, and unemployment levels. They included baseline measures of the child’s wellbeing. On the whole, there were very few links between the use of electronic media and well-being. But they did find a few important connections.
For girls, every additional hour they spent playing video games on weekdays was linked with a two-fold increase in the likelihood of experiencing emotional problems such as being unhappy, depressed, or worrying often.
For boys and girls, every extra hour of television watched on weekdays was associated with a small (20-30%) increase in family problems like not getting along well with parents or being unhappy at home. But there were no links with problems with friends, self-esteem or ability to function well in social settings.
But there are many things this study was not able to address. We do not know whether families who watch a lot of TV experience problems since this study just only accounted for video game and TV use by children. The study was not able to account for different television shows or different video games, but the content of such media could be important. Finally, as the authors note, the study relied on parents’ reports rather than objective measures.
Even so, it does reinforce the idea that parents should probably limit their children’s use of video games and the hours they spend watching television. Of course, the results of this study probably won’t stop your kids from complaining when you turn of their electric fun machines, but as I always told my boys, “the only fun I have as a parent is making you do things you don’t want to do.” They knew I was joking, but somehow they stopped complaining when they rolled their eyes at me!
We hope you are flourishing, whether or not you are watching television.
~Matt and the entire Well-being At Work Team
Research citation: Hinkley, T., Verbestel, V., Ahrens, W., Lissner, L., Molnár, D., Moreno, L., Pigeot, I., Pohlabeln, H., Reisch, L., Russo, P., Veidebaum, T., Tornaritis, M., Williams, G., De Henauw, S., & De Bourdeaudhuij, I. (2014). Early Childhood Electronic Media Use as a Predictor of Poorer Well-being JAMA Pediatrics DOI: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2014.94