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Video games may help boys bond, study finds

Susie O’Brien, February 22, 2021 6:45PM Herald Sun

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Imogen, 18, and brother Brady, 11, say gaming has helped them stay in touch with friends during COVID. Picture: Josie Hayden media_cameraImogen, 18, and brother Brady, 11, say gaming has helped them stay in touch with friends during COVID. Picture: Josie Hayden

technology

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Boys who aren’t active are not harmed by spending hours playing video games, a new study has found.

In fact, regular sessions of Fortnite, Roblox or Minecraft may help them bond with others, and lessen their chance of depression down the track, new international research shows.

More of a concern is the time girls spend on social media sites such as Snapchat and TikTok, because it can make them feel depressed, even some years later.

These are the findings of an international study of 11,000 children by scientists from University College London, Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet and Melbourne’s Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute.

The researchers found boys with low activity levels who regularly play video games at age 11 had 24 per cent fewer depressive symptoms at age 14 than boys who played video games less than once a month. The finding was not relevant for boys who were more active.

They also found girls who used social media most days at age 11 had 13 per cent more depressive symptoms three years later than those who used social media less than once a month.

Professor Neville Owen from the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute said the broader message was for kids to “get out there and do stuff – play and be active in real life” as well as on screens. “Being active is great for your brain, movement and co-ordination,” he said.

“Too much of our kids’ lives is spent on a screen, inside or in a car,” Professor Owen said.

Lead author Dr Aaron Kandola agreed there was a need “to reduce how much time children and adults spend sitting down, for their physical and mental health”.

“But that doesn’t mean that screen use is inherently* harmful,” he said.

Dr Kandola said more evidence was needed on how different types of screen time may affect the risk of depression in young people.

“While we cannot confirm whether playing video games actually improves mental health, it didn’t appear harmful in our study and may have some benefits. Particularly during the pandemic, video games have been an important social platform for young people,” he said.

Mitcham mother-of-three Naomi Hart said her son Brady, 11, and daughter Imogen, 18, had been playing computer games regularly over the past year. Imogen is also on social media.

“It’s about getting the balance right and looking after your child’s wellbeing,” she said. “Right now, kids need to do what makes them feel happy and comfortable.”

Should you be worried about Fortnite?

GLOSSARY

  • inherently: a necessary, permanent or unavoidable part of something

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Being bored is good for you

QUICK QUIZ

  1. Summarise in one or two sentences the main points of this story.
  2. Name two experts quoted in the story.
  3. Using the glossary, explain what the word inherently means.
  4. Which two social media platforms are mentioned?
  5. How old are two of Naomi Hart’s children?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Gaming versus Activity
“Being active is great for your brain, movement and co-ordination”, it says in the article. However, the research is saying video games can help those boys that aren’t very active feel more connected. Work with a partner and list some games or ideas that might inspire these less active boys that enjoy video games, to get more active and outside more.

How could you implement these in your school?

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: Health and Physical education, Personal and social, Critical and creative thinking

2. Extension
Why do you think social media such as TikTok and Snapchat can lead to depressive symptoms in girls years later? What age do you think children should be on these platforms and why?

Time: allow 10 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Critical and creative thinking

VCOP ACTIVITY
Wondrous Wow Words
After reading the article, with a partner, highlight as many wow words or ambitious pieces of vocabulary that you can find in yellow. Discuss the meanings of these words and see if you can use them orally in another sentence.

HAVE YOUR SAY: What impact do you think different types of screen time have on your wellbeing?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

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