How Do Video Games Impact Parent-Child Relationships?

More than 95% of children play video games; however, their parents often do not know much about the games they play. Approximately one-third of parents report that they occasionally play video game with their kids. This is surprising, since most parents engage in other play activities with their kids, and there are many studies that suggest it is beneficial for parents to play video games with their children. Playing video games with children or adolescents can serve as a good bonding opportunity, improve a sense of family, model skills in problem solving and empathy, and assist parents in understanding their children’s interests.

One study showed that females age 11-16 who played video games with their parents had higher levels of positive behavior, mental health, and family connections. Strangely, these positive effects were not found with males 11-16.  As this study was the first of its kind, more research will need to be conducted to determine why gender led to different outcomes.

To learn more about this important topic, check out these straightforward and scholarly articles that reflect the current state of the science. You can also link to our complete bibliography on the science of games and learning or go to the Center for Media and Child Health Research base for more extensive information.

Coyne, S., Padilla-Walker, L., Stockdale, L., & Day, R. (2010). Game On… Girls: Associations Between Co-playing Video Games and Adolescent Behavioral and Family Outcomes. Journal of Adolescent Health, 160-165

There have been many studies that have looked into the role video games play in behavior and health outcomes for adolescents. The current study, however, investigated the relationship between parental co-play of video games and behavioral and family outcomes. Results showed that while time spent playing video games alone had many negative outcomes, co-playing video games with parents resulted in positive outcomes such as decreased levels of internalizing and aggressive behavior.

Kutner, L., Olson, C., Warner, D., & Hertzog, S. (2008). Parents’ And Sons’ Perspectives On Video Game Play: A Qualitative Study. Journal of Adolescent Research, 23(1), 76-96.

A study of 21 adolescents and their parents to look at parental concerns about children’s access to video games with violent or sexual content explored parents’ concerns, compared the perceptions of parents with their children’s, and illustrated the extent to which these concerns were consistent with the focus of public policy efforts. The findings showed that the main concern of parents was that video games would interfere with their children’s obligations. Researchers also found that definitions and opinions about what is harmful varied depending on the person and may not match proposed public policies.

Nikken, P. (n.d.). Parental Mediation of Children’s Video Game Playing: A Similar Construct as Television Mediation.

An internet survey of 536 parent-child pairs to research the mediation strategies parents use in regard to their children’s (ages 8-18) gaming indicated that mediation is most strongly predicted by a child’s age and also by the parent’s gaming. Parents were more restrictive when they feared that media would have negative effects on their children’s behavior and attitudes.

Osmanovic, S., & Pecchioni, L. (2015). Beyond entertainment: Motivations and outcomes of video game playing by older adults and their younger family members. Games and Culture, 11(1-2), 130-149.

More and more adults have become enthralled by the gaming world. While research had already shown that gaming can improve the cognitive and physical abilities of older adults, the current study demonstrated that this can also foster relationships and positive emotions when extended to family members.

Shin, W., & Huh, J. (2011). Parental Mediation Of Teenagers’ Video Game Playing: Antecedents And Consequences. New Media & Society, 945-962.

This study analyzed a survey taken by teenagers and their parents in the United States that looked at parental mediation (in terms of co-playing, checking game ratings, and stopping them from playing games) of teenagers’ video-game play and the influence this has on their gaming behavior. Results showed that parental mediation was significantly related to the frequency of game play as well as to the teens’ engagement in deceptive gaming behavior.

Tobias, S., Halter, J., & Newbauer, D. (2015). Relationships Between Video Game Play and Family Environment Among Female University Student Game Players Living at Home. Journal of Family & Consumer Sciences, 107(1), 25-34.

Video-game play can be seen by parents as a time to bond with their children. However, the current study showed that this positive relationship is not applicable to all populations. Solo video-game play actually negatively affected relationships within families when it came to females who were attending university but living at home.  

Wang, B., Taylor, L., & Sun, Q. (2018). Families that play together stay together: Investigating family bonding through video games. New Media & Society,146-144.

This study investigated the effects of video game co-playing among family members on family satisfaction and family closeness. In total, 361 parents recruited from Amazon Turk completed online questionnaires. The results showed that the more frequently family members play video games together, the better family satisfaction and family closeness they have.” (Wang et al., 2018)


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