Research Supported Treatment for Video Game and Internet Overuse

Everything we do at Summerland Camps is based on peer-reviewed research into what works for behavioral change. We seek to build the intrinsic motivation of every camper we serve.

Often parents contact us at Summerland camps because of a concern for the amount of time their child spends playing video games or other various screen-based activities.  Adolescents tend to be poor at tracking time without their parent’s assistance.  When a parent then asks the child to get off the game, a verbal argument ensues.  We hear this same situation over and over from parents we help.

Research into the Effect of Schooling

It’s imperative that as parents we do everything we can to prepare our kids for the unstructured nature of college.  Research shows us that 40% of college students will leave higher education without getting a degree (Porter, 1990) and 75% of these students will leave in their first two years of college (Tinto, 1987).

A study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology found that time management practices were significant predictors of cumulative GPA and accounted for more variance in grades than did SAT scores.  So we, therefore, know that teaching time management skills is critical to their college success.  If our children come to depend on us to tell them to turn off their games, we are setting them up for failure in college.  Teaching our campers to self-regulate their screen activities and transferring this skill back home is the purpose of the camp.

Another study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology found that a student’s ability to organize, execute, and regulate performance along with optimism were strongly related to performance and adjustment, both directly on academic performance and indirectly through expectations and coping perceptions (challenge-threat evaluations) on classroom performance, stress, health, and overall satisfaction and commitment to remain in school.  We also know through brain imaging studies that excessive video game playing results in structural changes to young developing brains. 

Research into Psychological Effects

Research has shown that playing violent games increases hostile feelings in the short term (Farrar & Kromar, 2006; Persky & Blascovich, 2004).

Groves et al (2015) study showed that pathological gamers were significantly more likely to feel increased anger post-play, and were over-represented for both increased and decreased post-play reports of feeling “mad” whereas non-gamers and non-pathological gamers were both more likely to feel the same pre- and post-play.

A study by Gentile et al (2011) found that greater amounts of gaming, lower social competence, and greater impulsivity seemed to act as risk factors for becoming pathological gamers, whereas depression, anxiety, social phobias, and lower school performance seemed to act as outcomes of pathological gaming.

According to the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on Video Game Violence:

“Scientists have investigated the use of violent video games for more than two decades…the link between violence in video games and increased aggression in players is one of the most studied and best established in the field.”

“The research demonstrates a consistent relation between violent video game use and increases in aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition, and aggressive affect, and decreases in prosocial behavior, empathy, and sensitivity to aggression,” says the report of the APA Task Force on Violent Media.

Life Skills Research

Most of the Research on Video Games has Been on Unintended Effects, some of which relate to life skills:

  • Visual attention skills (e.g., Green & Bavelier, 2007).  Researchers found that playing action video games can alter fundamental characteristics of the visual system, such as the spatial resolution of visual processing across the visual field
  • Aggression (e.g., Gentile, Lynch, Linder, & Walsh, 2004).  In this study, six hundred and seven 8th- and 9th-grade students from four schools participated. Adolescents who expose themselves to greater amounts of video game violence were more hostile, reported getting into arguments with teachers more frequently, were more likely to be involved in physical fights, and performed more poorly in school.
  • Obesity (e.g., Vandewater, Shim, & Caplovitz, 2004). Results indicated that while television use was not related to children’s weight status, video game use was.
  • School performance (e.g., Gentile, Lynch, Linder, & Walsh, 2004)
  • Health video game effects (e.g., Lieberman, 1997). Video games can be used to teach positive skills.  In this study, researchers consider how multimedia instructional design principles integrated into video games can contribute to health promotion targeted to children and adolescents.

Aftercare Research

We also know through research studies how critical is it to support your child in after services (also called, “continuing care”) after they have made the commitment to change.  In one study on the effectiveness of aftercare services, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and the Betty Ford Foundation looked at all professional continuing care services and the effect on substance abuse treatment.  All forms of aftercare were significantly associated with abstinence over and above individual factors ranging from 1.3 to 3.2 times greater outcomes.

As parents, we must do everything we can to send out children off to college with the mental framework needed to organize and execute the daily behaviors needed for college success.  This means helping our children organize their time and execute the behaviors needed to succeed.  If your child is currently paying 5 hours or more of video games per day, only stopping when you intervene- who likely can we expect them to succeed in college?

You can read more about research into the effects of screen activity here.

References:

American Psychological Association (2015). APA Review Confirms Link Between Playing Violent Video Games and Aggression. Retrieved 10/2017 from: http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2015/08/violent-video-games.aspx

Chemers, Martin M.; Hu, Li-tze; Garcia, Ben F. (2001) Academic self-efficacy and first-year college student performance and adjustment. Journal of Educational Psychology, Vol 93(1), Mar 2001, 55-64. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0022-0663.93.1.55

Britton, Bruce K.; Tesser, Abraham (1991). Effects of time-management practices on college grades. Journal of Educational Psychology, Vol 83(3), Sep 1991, 405-410. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0022-0663.83.3.405

Farrar, K.M.; Krcmar, M. (2006) Contextual features of violent video games, mental models, and aggression. J. Comm., 56, 387–405.

Gentile, D.A., Choo H., Liau, A., Sim, T., Li, D., Fung, D., Khoo, A., (2011). Pathological Video Game Use Among Youths: A Two-Year Longitudinal Study. Pediatrics, 2011.

Groves, C., Gentile, D.A., Tapscott, R.L.,  Lynch, P.J., (2015) Testing the Predictive Validity and Construct of Pathological Video Game Use. Behav. Sci. 2015, 5, 602-625; doi:10.3390/bs5040602

Persky, S.; Blascovich, J. (2004). The Price of Technology: Immersive Virtual Video Games and Aggression. Paper presented at the 16th annual convention of the American Psychological Society, Chicago, IL, USA, 27