Video games are one of the favourite leisure activities of children; the influence on child health is usually perceived to be negative. The present study assessed the association between the amount of time spent playing video games and children mental health as well as cognitive and social skills.
Data were drawn from the School Children Mental Health Europe project conducted in six European Union countries (youth ages 6–11, n = 3195). Child mental health was assessed by parents and teachers using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire and by children themselves with the Dominic Interactive. Child video game usage was reported by the parents. Teachers evaluated academic functioning. Multivariable logistic regressions were used.
20 % of the children played video games more than 5 h per week. Factors associated with time spent playing video games included being a boy, being older, and belonging to a medium size family. Having a less educated, single, inactive, or psychologically distressed mother decreased time spent playing video games. Children living in Western European countries were significantly less likely to have high video game usage (9.66 vs 20.49 %) though this was not homogenous. Once adjusted for child age and gender, number of children, mothers age, marital status, education, employment status, psychological distress, and region, high usage was associated with 1.75 times the odds of high intellectual functioning (95 % CI 1.31–2.33), and 1.88 times the odds of high overall school competence (95 % CI 1.44–2.47). Once controlled for high usage predictors, there were no significant associations with any child self-reported or mother- or teacher-reported mental health problems. High usage was associated with decreases in peer relationship problems [OR 0.41 (0.2–0.86) and in prosocial deficits (0.23 (0.07, 0.81)].
Playing video games may have positive effects on young children. Understanding the mechanisms through which video game use may stimulate children should be further investigated.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Strengths Difficulties Questionnaire
School Children Mental Health Europe
Messias E, Castro J, Saini A, Usman M, Peeples D (2011) Sadness, suicide, and their association with video game and internet overuse among teens: results from the youth risk behavior survey 2007 and 2009. Suicide Life Threat Behav 41(3):307–315
Primack BA, Swanier B, Georgiopoulos AM, Land SR, Fine MJ (2009) Association between media use in adolescence and depression in young adulthood: a longitudinal study. Arch Gen Psychiatry 66(2):181–188
Wenzel HG, Bakken IJ, Johansson A, Gotestam KG, Oren A (2009) Excessive computer game playing among Norwegian adults: self-reported consequences of playing and association with mental health problems. Psychol Rep 105(3 Pt 2):1237–1247
Casiano H, Kinley DJ, Katz LY, Chartier MJ, Sareen J (2012) Media use and health outcomes in adolescents: findings from a nationally representative survey. J Can Acad Child Adolesc 21(4):296–301
Funk JB (2005) Children’s exposure to violent video games and desensitization to violence. Child Adolesc Psychiatr Clin N Am 14(3):387–404
Tejeiro Salguero RA, Moran RM (2002) Measuring problem video game playing in adolescents. Addiction 97(12):1601–1606
Rehbein F, Kleimann M, Mossle T (2010) Prevalence and risk factors of video game dependency in adolescence: results of a German nationwide survey. Cyberpsychol Behav Soc Netw 13(3):269–277
Dorman SM (1997) Video and computer games: effect on children and implications for health education. J School Health 67(4):133–138
Ferguson CJ (2010) Blazing angels or resident evil? Can violent video games be a force for good? Rev Gen Psychol 14(2):68–81
Ferguson CJ (2011) Video games and youth violence: a prospective analysis in adolescents. J Youth Adolesc 40(4):377–391
Ferguson CJ (2011) The influence of television and video game use on attention and school problems: a multivariate analysis with other risk factors controlled. J Psychiatr Res 45(6):808–813
Ferguson CJ, Kilburn J (2010) Much ado about nothing: the misestimation and overinterpretation of violent video game effects in eastern and western nations: comment on Anderson et al. (2010). Psychol Bull 136(2):174–178 (discussion 82–87)
Kovess V, Carta MG, Pez O, Bitfoi A, Koc C, Goelitz D et al (2015) The School Children Mental Health in Europe (SCMHE) Project: design and first results. Clin Pract Epidemiol Ment Health 11(Suppl 1 M7):113–123
Korkeila J, Lehtinen V, Bijl R, Dalgard OS, Kovess V, Morgan A et al (2003) Establishing a set of mental health indicators for Europe. Scand J Public Health 31(6):451–459
Goodman R (1997) The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire: a research note. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 38(5):581–586
Goodman R (2001) Psychometric properties of the strengths and difficulties questionnaire. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 40(11):1337–1345
Muris P, Meesters C, van den Berg F (2003) The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ)—further evidence for its reliability and validity in a community sample of Dutch children and adolescents. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry 12(1):1–8
Becker A, Woerner W, Hasselhorn M, Banaschewski T, Rothenberger A (2004) Validation of the parent and teacher SDQ in a clinical sample. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry 13(Suppl 2):II11–II16
Marzocchi GM, Capron C, Di Pietro M, Duran Tauleria E, Duyme M, Frigerio A et al (2004) The use of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) in Southern European countries. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry 13(Suppl 2):II40–II46
Becker A, Steinhausen HC, Baldursson G, Dalsgaard S, Lorenzo MJ, Ralston SJ et al (2006) Psychopathological screening of children with ADHD: Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire in a pan-European study. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry 15(Suppl 1):I56–I62
Goodman R, Renfrew D, Mullick M (2000) Predicting type of psychiatric disorder from Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) scores in child mental health clinics in London and Dhaka. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry 9(2):129–134
Valla JP, Bergeron L, Berube H, Gaudet N, St-Georges M (1994) A structured pictorial questionnaire to assess DSM-III-R-based diagnoses in children (6–11 years): development, validity, and reliability. J Abnorm Child Psychol 22(4):403–423
Valla JP, Bergeron L, Smolla N (2000) The Dominic-R: a pictorial interview for 6- to 11-year-old children. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 39(1):85–93
Kuijpers RC, Otten R, Vermulst AA, Pez O, Bitfoi A, Carta M et al (2015) Reliability, factor structure, and measurement invariance of the Dominic Interactive across European Countries: cross-country utility of a child mental health self-report. Psychol Assess. doi:10.1037/pas0000139
Kovess-Masfety V, Pilowsky DJ, Goelitz D, Kuijpers R, Otten R, Moro MF et al (2015) Suicidal ideation and mental health disorders in young school children across Europe. J Affect Disord 177:28–35
Shimai S, Masuda K, Kishimoto Y (1990) Influences of TV games on physical and psychological development of Japanese kindergarten children. Percept Mot Skills 70(3 Pt 1):771–776
Granic I, Lobel A, Engels RC (2014) The benefits of playing video games. Am Psychol 69(1):66–78
Ewoldsen DR, Eno CA, Okdie BM, Velez JA, Guadagno RE, DeCoster J (2012) Effect of playing violent video games cooperatively or competitively on subsequent cooperative behavior. Cyberpsychol Behav Soc Netw 15(5):277–280
Gentile DA, Anderson CA, Yukawa S, Ihori N, Saleem M, Ming LK et al (2009) The effects of prosocial video games on prosocial behaviors: international evidence from correlational, longitudinal, and experimental studies. Pers Soc Psychol Bull 35(6):752–763
This project had been financed by the European Union, Grant Number 2006336. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. We would like to thank the SCMHE group and everyone that contributed to the European report including interviewers who worked in the participating countries. In addition, we would like to thank the parents, young people, and teachers for their cooperation in contributing to the survey. Special thanks for Jean-Pierre Valla, for making the Dominic Interactive available in the participating countries languages.
Conflict of interest
The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.
About this article
Cite this article
Kovess-Masfety, V., Keyes, K., Hamilton, A. et al. Is time spent playing video games associated with mental health, cognitive and social skills in young children?. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 51, 349–357 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00127-016-1179-6
- Mental health