Among adolescents with excessive video gaming habits, those with more online social interaction had better mental health outcomes compared with those with less social interaction.
“While playing video games for 4 hours a day can be worrisome behavior, not everyone who does so is at risk of developing symptoms of addiction or depression,” Michelle Colder Carras, PhD, of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said in a press release. “If these adolescents are sitting around playing games together with their friends or chatting regularly with their friends online as they play, this could be part of a perfectly normal developmental pattern. We shouldn’t assume all of them have a problem.”
Michelle Colder Carras
To characterize online social interactions among patterns of video gaming behaviors and game addiction symptoms, researchers conducted latent-class analysis of 9,733 adolescents from the Monitor Internet and Youth study, an annual cross-sectional school-based survey in the Netherlands.
Researchers found two types of heavy gaming groups that differed in probability of online social interaction.
There were fewer problematic gaming symptoms among participants with more online social interaction, compared with those with less online social interaction.
Adolescents with heavy gaming habits reported more depressive symptoms than those with normative gaming habits.
Social anxiety was more common among males who were non-social gamers.
Female social gamers reported less social anxiety and loneliness but lower self-esteem.
Friendship quality decreased depression among some male social gamers, but strengthened associations with loneliness among male non-social gamers.
“Our findings open up the idea that maybe playing a lot of video games can be part of having an active social life. Instead of being concerned about the game playing, we should focus on those who also lack a social life or have other problems,” Colder Carras said in the release. “Rather than seeing a lot of video game playing and worrying that this reflects gaming-related problems, parents and clinicians should figure out whether these teens also have high-quality friendships. It could just be that they have good friends who they like to hang out and play video games with. That is probably not a worrisome equation.” – by Amanda Oldt
Disclosure: Please see the study for a full list of relevant financial disclosures.