A new study warns that too much time spent playing computer games can affect a child's performance at school. Britain's National Children's Bureau Northern Ireland on Monday published the results of research showing that excessive computer use hampers students' chances of getting good exam grades.
Good computer skills are desirable in today's digital age, and playing computer games can help children hone those skills -- as long as they don't overdo it, scientists warn. The British study involved 600 teenagers over a period of two years and found that those who played computer games less than once a week achieved better grades at school than ones who played them twice a day or more often. The study also found that daily use of social media did not affect school performance.
"It was clear that social media didn't have any impact. I think that's more because social media is part and parcel of every child's life. It's the way they communicate. It's the way they keep in touch with their friends," said Celine McStravick of the National Children’s Bureau Northern Ireland.
Parents increasingly complain of having difficulty getting their children away from computer games. Some even seek help for their teenagers who they say are addicted to them. The study did not look into addiction, but suggested computer games can cause children to stay up late in the evenings, making them tired and less able to focus at school the next day.
Mark Starkey, the longtime owner of the Heart of Gaming computer game outlet in London, said there is also the difference between older games and the new ones.
"The ability to make games a lot more bigger, a lot more detailed, a lot more intricate is here now. It's going to hold their attention longer. It's going to hold it a lot longer, because there's always wanting to progress through the story line -- here's a cliffhanger; 'Oh my god, I have to see what happens next' etc. etc. Whereas, again, the old games they challenge more your hand-eye coordination, your speed, your timing, your reactions, rather than perhaps your imagination," said Starkey.
The games industry has long claimed there is no proven link between games and addiction. But the new study says additional research is needed to establish the effect of prolific computer game-playing on performance at school.