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Negative Effects Seen With Video Gaming 9+ Hours/Week

Benefits seen with one hour a week, but behavioral problems appear to rise at nine hours a week

TUESDAY, Sept. 27, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Any skill enhancements linked to gaming among those aged 7 to 11 max out after two hours of gaming a week, and those who play nine hours or more a week are more likely to have social and behavioral problems, according to a study published in the September issue of the Annals of Neurology.

Parents living in Barcelona were asked to report the video game habits of 2,442 boys and girls between the ages of 7 and 11. About five-sixths of the children played at least one hour a week; the rest were “non-gamers.” Across all ages, gamers played about four hours a week, on average, with boys playing nearly two hours more per week than girls.

Testing revealed that gamers who played for one hour per week had faster reaction times than non-gamers. No further change in motor speed was seen in children who played more than two hours weekly. Magnetic resonance imaging of 260 children further linked gaming both to alterations in basal ganglia white matter and functional connectivity. The more time children spent gaming, the more likely they were to suffer from behavioral problems, particularly when gaming reached or exceeded nine hours a week.

“Significantly better visuomotor skills can be seen in school children playing video games, even with relatively small amounts of use. Frequent weekly use, by contrast, was associated with conduct problems,” the authors write. “Further studies are needed to determine whether moderate video gaming causes improved visuomotor skills and whether excessive video gaming causes conduct problems, or whether children who already have these characteristics simply play more video games.”

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