Parents often worry about how much time their kids spend playing video games, especially given the research that links excessive game-playing with poorer grades and other negative outcomes. But an article by Iowa State researcher Douglas Gentile (formerly of a Minneapolis child media institute) encouraged parents to also consider why their children play so many games. While excessive game-playing might be associated with poorer grades, it isn't necessarily a cause-effect relationship.
"It is possible to argue that this relation might be due to the children themselves, rather than to game time," Gentile reports. "It is likely that children who perform more poorly at school are likely to spend more time playing games, where they may feel a sense of mastery that eludes them at school."
This notion seems to jive with another recent analysis of data from the 2010 Minnesota Student Survey, which looked at the characteristics of students who identified themselves as being bullied or as bullies. Turns out, bullies and the bullied spend more time online and playing video games than their peers.
Both articles raise the notion of struggling children seeking out video games for refuge -- as an escape from everyday frustrations.
It would seem a delicate balance for video games to be a source of comfort for kids either struggling with their schoolwork, or peers, or both. If frustrated children can blow off steam playing games after school, then perhaps the games serve an almost therapeutic purpose. But if the games are the only opportunities for kids to feel mastery over something in their lives, then are they giving kids a false world of security and satisfaction?