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Study: Video games good for dads and daughters

Want to raise happy, well-adjusted daughters? Then start playing video games together. That’s one of the conclusions from a recent study of the impact of video gaming on adolescent children and their families.

The study, conducted by researchers from Brigham Young University’s School of Family Life and reported in this month’s Journal of Adolescent Health, looked at the video gaming habits of 287 kids between the ages of 11 and 16. Although the study noted several negative behavioral outcomes as a result of playing video games – particularly age-inappropriate games – the data also showed that girls who co-play video games with a parent exhibited less aggressive behavior, felt a stronger connection to their families, and show indications of stronger mental health.

The study found that it’s mostly dads who are co-playing video games with their kids. “We had very few moms report that they played video games at all,” said Sarah Coyne, PhD, lead author of the study. The researchers also found that age-appropriate games led to the most positive results, making them the best choice for girls and their parents. “When girls played inappropriate games (rated M for Mature), their reported family connection levels fell.”

However, the report didn’t make it clear whether the co-play affects the girls positively or whether healthier families are more inclined to play together in the first place. “I’m guessing that it’s a bit of both,” said Coyne.

Interestingly, co-playing was not associated with any outcome (either positive or negative) for adolescent boys. The study’s authors speculate that this is because boys tend to play video games more frequently than girls, and mostly without a parent present. Although boys tend to play more violent games than girls, the study suggests that co-playing any kind of game with a parent doesn't affect boys the way it does girls.

However, the authors were most encouraged by the positive impact of co-playing with a parent on girls. And since co-playing also led to a more connected feeling being reported by parents, the phenomenon seems to work both ways.

If you are thinking of playing video games with your daughter, Coyne even suggests a few titles, all of which scored high marks with the girls in the study: 1) Wii Sports; 2) Rock Band; 3) Mario Kart; 4) Mario Party; and 5) Super Mario Brothers.

Do you play video games with your kids? Do you find it a positive bonding experience? Share some of your favorite titles!

Comment by Phillip Flores, posted 2/23/2011, 3:04 PM:

I think the other way of looking at this is that both father and daughter had spent some time together (and not the usual dad-is-lecturing-me-again type). The video game is only a medium or a means and if it is working. Going out to have an ice cream or going to the movies I think are better alternatives because conversations can happen. Playing a video game minimises the ranges of topics that can be discussed although at times it is good to play a game together. Just my two cents.
Comment by Eryn, posted 2/22/2011, 3:41 PM:

In regards to age-appropriate games for girls, girls define their sense of male-female relationships by using their dads as a silent sounding board. If Dad speaks to them with respect & shows that their opinions are valuable, they will expect that from all men. If Dad pushes them out of their comfort zone w/R-rated movies or M-rated games, I'm afraid that this sends a message that girls should be quiet about men making them uncomfortable. A message NO dad would wants to send! Interesting!
Comment by Eryn, posted 2/22/2011, 3:34 PM:

I've seen this in my house! My daughter shows a lot of pride when she beats her dad & I at a video game. We're seeing positive things come out of dads having a new way to bond with their daughters. They've long been ready & willing to throw a ball with their sons, but there's this attitude that when girls hit puberty, dads just can't relate to them. Clearly this is untrue & video games give dads a very accessible means to spend side-by-side time with their girls. AWESOME!
Comment by geekbabe, posted 2/22/2011, 3:15 PM:

I know the study says boys dont seem to get the huge benefits girls do but I can tell you that some of my best memories with my son happened over video games.It gave him a time to just be with me, to chat informally...lot's of concerns & worries reached my ears during game play!
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