Video games may be better than watching TV: study

CHILDREN arguing with their parents for more time on the X-Box or Playstation this school holidays have evidence on their side.

A QUT study out of the university's Games Research and Interaction Design Lab looked at the amount of time children spent watching television and DVDs compared to video game and computer use.

The researchers - Dr Penny Wright, Dr Daniel Johnson and Dr Peta Wyeth - found youngsters could be better off playing video games than watching television.

The resulting paper, Active versus Passive Screen Time for Young Children, showed the majority of children aged two to five exceeded government recommendations of a maximum of one hour of "screen time" per day.

Their analysis of data from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children found children in this age group spent, on average, between two to three hours watching television compared to less than 30 minutes playing video games or using computers.

Dr Sweetser said computer use and playing video games was not the same as watching television.

She said screen-time recommendations, which were based on the sum of all screen-related activities, should be divided into two categories - active and passive screen time.

"This distinction provides a more accurate classification of screen time and a better lens through which to consider the benefits and detrimental effects for young children," Dr Sweetser said.

Dr Johnson said while watching television was a "passive" experience, video and computer games were interactive, with research showing it boosted children's self-esteem, cognitive skills such as problem-solving and, in some cases, physical activity levels.

"There is a lot of negative press about gaming and that's not well-supported. Where there is a negative effect, research shows it's on the minority of people," Dr Johnson said.

"Video games are a mainstream pastime. More than 92% of Australian homes have at least one device for playing videogames.

"Emerging research has shown that active video games such as Nintendo Wii, Sony PlayStation Move, and the XBOX Kinect can be used to motivate young children to exercise and be more active outside of the game setting."

But it's not all good news for children.

The researchers said it was important parents continued to monitor the amount of time and type of video games being played by their children.

"Clearly, certain forms of media such as violent video games are not appropriate for children, and games should be played in moderation," Dr Sweetser said.

Topics:  tv video games

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