The John Tung Foundation yesterday urged parents to put reasonable limits on their children’s video gaming, citing a study that links gaming to social skill deficiencies in adolescents that disproportionately affects girls.
The research was conducted by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, the Trondheim-based Saint Olav’s Hospital and the University of California, Davis, the foundation said in a news release.
The study suggests that the impact of gaming on the development of social skills is not uniform across age groups and sexes, the foundation said.
While the social lives of boys was unaffected by gaming, 10-year-old girls who spent more time playing games later displayed less developed social skills than their peers, it said.
Girls aged six to eight who displayed less developed social skills than their peers would likely go on to play more video games than others, it said.
The study tracked the gaming activity of 873 Norwegian children and their social development from age six to 12 through a combination of self-reports, interviews with parents and teacher-scored Social Skill Rating System evaluations, it said.
That video games do not have the same effect on the social development of boys and girls could be the result of differences in participation in outdoors activities, John Tung Mental Health Center director Yeh Ya-hsing (葉雅馨) said.
Boys tend to take part in outdoor activities that develop social skills, while girls might lack similar opportunities, Yeh said.
Parents should talk with their child if they feel anxiety or lack of purpose when not playing games, or if gaming interferes with their ability to function, she said.
Should the child continue to struggle balancing gaming and other obligations, parents could impose strict rules on how much time their children can spend gaming, she said.
Another way to encourage the development of social skills is to play games with the child or have their friends visit, she said.
Socially challenged children could be drawn to video games as a relief from social interactions that cause them embarrassment and stress, said Chen Chih-tsai (陳質采), a child psychologist at the Taoyuan Pscyhiatric Center, which is run by the Ministry of Health and Welfare.
Some games with a cooperative element could provide those children with a substitute for social interaction that makes them feel a sense of solidarity and more in charge of interpersonal relationships, Chen said.
As gaming is a predominantly male activity, playing video games is a socialization factor for boys, she said.
As girls tend to keep a few intimate friends, gaming does not offer the practice in social interaction that they need to socialize with other girls and instead could potentially lead to social isolation, she said.
From a therapeutic perspective, it is a daunting task to turn children away from gaming or other activities they enjoy, so parents and teachers should focus their efforts on encouraging social activities, she said.
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