September 24, 2007

Teens, Video Games and Time Use

An article in the July 2007 issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine reports on the findings from questions asked on a panel survey of children 10 to 19 administered in 2002-2003. Authors Hope Cummings and Elizabeth Vandewater wanted to understand how adolescents spent their time, specifically gaming and in other activities.

Their study shows some findings that I found surprising – first that just 36% of adolescents play video games – which in their sample includes 80% of all boys and just 20% of all girls. This differs from our own findings that show a greater percentage of teens who play video games (67%) and a more even distribution among online boys and girls (87% & 47% play games, respectively). Also, whether or not a teen plays games is unrelated to their ethnicity, household income level or parent’s level of education.

The authors also write that gamers spend about an hour playing games on a weekday and an hour and half playing on weekends. It is important to note that when making this assessment based on time diaries kept by the teens, that they did not count any time where the child reported engaging in more than one activity. So all multi-tasking (and any gaming that occurred) was ignored and not included in the final tally of time spent gaming, meaning that these numbers may be significantly lower than actual use.

And while there was some suggestion that some gamers may spend less time reading or doing homework, it isn’t clear from the research whether that is because they’re more efficient doing their homework, or if its because they’re less engaged with it and their school work in general.

I was also surprised by the author’s characterization of gaming as an activity that wasn’t “developmentally appropriate,” though they do not explain why they think games do not belong in that category, merely that games may “interfere with the development of skills needed to make a successful transition to adulthood.”

To read the full article, visit http://archpedi.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/161/7/684.