No tie between gaming, childhood obesity - Study

Michigan State research says games aren't responsible for overweight kids, but does spot links to poorer grades, improved visual-spatial skills.

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There's an ever-increasing number of scientific studies devoted to gaming and the effects it can have on children, but researchers are approaching the same problems and sometimes coming away with different answers. A new study authored by Dr. Linda A. Jackson of Michigan State University found no link between the amount of time kids spent gaming and their body mass index (BMI) number or weight, but it did tie gaming to lower grade-point averages in school. Both findings run contrary to some previous research in the field.

Sparty knows a thing or two about games.
Sparty knows a thing or two about games.

Jackson and MSU researchers surveyed 482 Michigan children about their gaming, Internet, and cell phone use, examining whether those were correlated with their weight, BMI, grades in school, social self-esteem, and overall self-esteem. The researchers found no link between the three activities and higher BMI or body weight, but they did note some other correlates they had.

"Video game playing appears to be a double-edged sword," according to the researchers. "It strongly contributed to children's visual-spatial skills, skills believed to be the foundation for the later learning in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Yet there was no relationship between video game playing and mathematics test scores and, consistent with previous research, a negative relationship between video game playing and grades in school."

The previous research referred to was actually the National Institute on Media and the Family's 2006 video game industry report card, in which the watchdog group said its own research had identified a link between gaming and poor grades. The Michigan State paper did not address a Yale study published in November that found regular gaming in teenaged boys was associated with higher grade-point averages.

The newly released study runs contrary to another finding in that same NIMF report card research, which said its kids who gamed frequently were more likely to be obese. However, previous studies published in peer-reviewed journals in 2004 and 1998 have also tied gaming to childhood obesity.

The survey responses also found that avid gamers typically had lower social self-esteem than their less frequently gaming counterparts. On the other hand, researchers found that the kids who used cell phones more typically had higher social self-esteem. Internet usage was also tied to its own positive trait, as kids who were online more possessed significantly boosted reading skills.

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