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A recent study by Oxford University found that, contrary to popular belief, a little video game playing can be good for children.

For many years, psychiatrists, psychologists and other mental health professionals have been in two minds about the positive or negative effects video games can have on children and teenagers. Despite the dire warnings from researchers, parenting advisers and charities about links to violent behaviour, poor social skills, desensitization and lack of empathy, the global video games market continues to grow. It's estimated that in the UK alone there are now over 30 million gamers and the market is worth over £2 billion per year.

Now there's some good news for worried parents, which also gives food for thought to child psychiatrists and educational psychologists. According to a recent study by Oxford University, there are no positive or negative effects on young people who play video games for between one and three hours per day. In fact, the study found that a little video game playing was actually good for them, with those who play for less than an hour a day being more social and more likely to be satisfied with their lives than those who don't play at all.

The findings shed new light on previous studies, many of which have concentrated exclusively on the negative effects of video gaming. Just last year a meta-analytical review by the University of Innsbruck concluded that 'violent video games increase aggression', while research by the Department of Psychology at Italy's University of Valle d'Aosta claimed that 'violent video games would increase multiple immoral behaviours', such as lack of self-control, cheating and aggression.

Commenting on the Oxford study via the website of the British Psychological Society, Chartered Psychologist Dr Helen O'Connor said, "For many years computer games have been studied and the negative aspects of playing these have been highlighted to parents and children, but rarely have studies looked at the benefits of computer games. This study is an encouraging look at how times are changing and how young people's interests need to be both monitored but embraced."

Electronic Gaming and Psychosocial Adjustment by Andrew K Przybylski PhD was published by Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, on 4 August 2014.

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