Gaming Hand-in-Hand with Risky Behaviors?

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A study to be published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence find that, at least among college students, the type and frequency of video game play can parallel real-life risk behaviors like drug and alcohol abuse, as well as poor personal relationships and self-esteem. The authors don’t propose a causal relationship between gaming and these traits, but suggest that video gaming habits might cluster with what would generally be seen as negative outcomes in children in adolescents.

The study, from Laura M. Padilla-Walker, Larry J. Nelson, Jason S. Carroll, and Alexander C. Jensen at Brigham Young University examined a year’s worth of data on video gaming habits and real-life behaviors and attitudes from 500 female and 313 male undergraduate students in the United States. The students reported on their gaming, as well as their alcohol and drug use, perceptions of self-worth, and their relationships with friends and family.

The study found a sharp contrast between males’ and females’ use of video games and the Internet, with young men reporting they played games up three times as often as female participants—and playing violent video games eight times as often. Young women were most likely to use the Internet for school work and email, while young men tapped into the Web for news, entertainment and (surprise) porn.

However, even across genders, frequent gaming went hand-in-hand with more frequent alcohol and drug use and perceived lower quality personal relationships. And frequent violent gaming was more common among study participants who had more sexual partners and lower-quality personal relationships. But games weren’t the only activities singled out: similar negative outcomes also clustered around serious use of online chat rooms, shopping sites, online entertainment, and pornography.

In contrast, researchers found a "plethora of positive outcomes" for Internet use involving school work.

Again, the researchers don’t propose a causal relationship between gaming and/or Internet use and these negative outcomes, and merely note that the results seem to cluster together. They recommend further research for a more complete understanding of gaming and technology’s role in the development of young adults.

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