People play computer games in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Nelson Almeida / AFP
Dear parents, please take note. When it comes to video gaming, girls in the 6-12 age group are at a heightened risk of developing less social competence than boys, warn researchers.
The researchers found that 10-year-old girls who played games frequently had less social competence than 12-year-olds than girls who played less frequently.
The study by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), NTNU Social Research, the University of California, Davis, and St. Olav's Hospital in Norway, however, found that playing video games is generally not harmful to boys' social development.
"Our study may mitigate some concerns about the adverse effects of gaming on children's development," said Beate Wold Hygen, post-doctoral fellow at the NTNU and NTNU Social Research.
"It might not be gaming itself that warrants our attention, but the reasons some children and adolescents spend a lot of their spare time playing the games," Hygen added in the paper published in the journal Child Development.
The popularity of interactive video games has sparked concern among parents, educators and policymakers about how the games affect children and adolescents.
The new study, conducted in Norway, looked at how playing video games affects the social skills of 6- to 12-year-olds.
It found that playing the games affected youth differently by age and gender.
For the study, the researchers studied 873 Norwegian youth from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds every two years for six years when the children were aged 6 to 12.
The findings suggested that girls who spent more time playing video games at age 10 developed weaker social skills two years later than girls who spent less time playing games.
"Girls who play video games may be more isolated socially and have less opportunity to practice social skills with other girls, which may affect their later social competence," the study noted.
Children who struggled socially at ages 8 and 10 were more likely to spend more time playing video games at ages 10 and 12.
"It might be that poor social competence drives youth's tendency to play video games for extensive periods of time," suggested Lars Wichstrom, professor of psychology at NTNU.
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