Video games never held my interest as a kid. From Atari to Colecovision, Donkey Kong, Frogger and Space Invaders, I hated them all, particularly Pacman (too much pressure to run away from the little blinking mafia of carnivorous circles, and for what — a measly cherry?). The competition made me uneasy and sweating over making it to the next level by leaping on giant mushrooms or dodging cars on highways was not my idea of fun. Plus, I’ve always believed that playing video games is like eating a slice of white bread — there’s not a speck of anything beneficial that comes from it.
However, who knew that had I liked video games when I was young, and had my dad joined me in playing them, I might have had fewer mental issues and problems with aggressive behavior (I’ve long been a therapist’s dream come true).
As it turns out, researchers from Brigham Young University’s School of Family Life have discovered that when parents play video games with their children — and most specifically, when fathers play with their daughters — the results are actually good. Girls who play age-appropriate video games with a parent feel more connected to their families and have fewer emotional issues says MSNBC.com. According to the researchers in the study published the Journal of Adolescent Health, this is the first time that it’s been proven that gaming with an adult has positive effects on young girls.
The researchers say there is “an association between co-playing of video games and lowered internalizing (e.g., depression/anxiety) and aggressive behavior. Furthermore, girls who co-played with their parents reported more pro-social behavior toward family members, which may be a function of higher relationship quality between daughters and parents who co-play. These findings certainly confirm parents’ own views of co-playing, who believe that co-playing would result in positive social and emotional outcomes. Furthermore, they allay fears that co-playing video games results in negative outcomes, at least for girls.”
It seems as though girls who play video games with their parents see that they’re willing to engage in meaningful activities with them, and they’re spending quality time together that involves conversation. The study also found that when boys play video games with a parent, there is no impact on their behavior or family connection compared to girls. And when age-inappropriate games were played there wasn’t as much of a benefit because “such games are often very intense and may interfere with conversation or interaction that may lead to heightened levels of connection.”
Lastly, the study showed that the biggest impact on girls was when they played with their dads, not their moms. Which is actually good news for me if it means I can avoid playing video games with my daughter if and when she eventually shows any interest. Because my interest level in video games has not increased over time, or even by reading the results of this study. If my daughter is looking for quality time, I’ll figure out another way for us to squeeze in a meaningful activity that doesn’t require a running from mutant giant ape. I’m confident there are other options.
Do you play video games with your kids?
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