Parents, relax. All that time your son spends on Fortnite or Minecraft isn’t doing him any harm.
Parents, relax. All that time your son spends on Fortnite or Minecraft isn’t doing him any harm.

Fortnight and Minecraft are not ruining your kids

Boys who aren't active are not harmed by spending hours playing video games, a new study has found.

In fact, regular sessions of Fortnite, Roblox or Minecraft may help them bond with others, and lessen their chance of depression down the track, new international research shows.

More of a concern is the time girls spend on social media sites such as Snapchat and TikTok, because it can make them feel depressed, even some years later.

These are the findings of an international study of 11,000 children by scientists from University College London, Sweden's Karolinska Institutet and Melbourne's Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute.

The researchers found boys with low activity levels who regularly play video games at age eleven had 24% fewer depressive symptoms at age 14 than boys who played video games less than once a month. The finding was not relevant for boys who were more active.

Imogen (18) and brother Brady (11) say gaming has helped them stay in touch with friends during covid Picture: Josie Hayden
Imogen (18) and brother Brady (11) say gaming has helped them stay in touch with friends during covid Picture: Josie Hayden

They also found girls who used social media most days at age eleven had 13 per cent more depressive symptoms three years later than those who used social media less than once a month.

Professor Neville Owen from the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute said the broader message was for kids to "get out there and do stuff - play and be active in real life" as well as on screens. "Being active is great for your brain, movement and co-ordination," he said.

"Too much of our kids' lives is spent on a screen, inside or in a car," Professor Owen said.

Lead author Dr Aaron Kandola agreed there was a need "to reduce how much time children and adults spend sitting down, for their physical and mental health".

"But that doesn't mean that screen use is inherently harmful," he said.

Dr Kandola said more evidence was needed on how different types of screen-time may affect the risk of depression in young people.

"While we cannot confirm whether playing video games actually improves mental health, it didn't appear harmful in our study and may have some benefits. Particularly during the pandemic, video games have been an important social platform for young people," he said.

Mitcham mother-of-three Naomi Hart said her son Brady, 11, and daughter Imogen, 18, had been playing computer games regularly over the past year. Imogen is also on social media.

"It's about getting the balance right and looking after your child's wellbeing," she said. "Right now, kids need to do what makes them feel happy and comfortable."

susie.obrien@news.com.au

Originally published as Why Fortnight, Minecraft not runing your sons


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