By Melony Teague

teen-videogames-depressionLet’s be honest, when the weather is cold or rainy, it is easy for parents to make allowances for extended periods of video gaming. And although studies show that more than two hours of video gaming a day poses a health risk to children and could result in obesity and a possible tendency to become addicted to playing, there’s now even more reason to monitor gaming. It can lead to depression.

For the first time, a new study, from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth), looked at the connection between violence in video games and depression. “Previous studies have observed how aggression relates to video games, but this is the first to examine the relationship between daily violent video game exposure and depression,” said Susan Tortolero, Phd. D., principal investigator and director of the Prevention Research Center at the UTHealth School of Public Health.

The study asked 5,147 fifth graders, of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, in three major cities in the U.S. to self-report on the frequency and duration of their involvement of games involving killing, hitting or punching. The results found that children who played violent video games for more than two hours a day showed significantly more depressive symptoms than those who did not. These symptoms included lack of pleasure, lack of interest in activities, concentration difficulties, low energy, low self-worth and suicidal ideation over the past year. “This association between violent video games and depression was consistent across all ethnic groups,” said Tortolero.

What you can do
Although your children may now be in their teens, it’s not too late to change their gaming habits. Here’s how.

  • Monitor your child in terms of habits and possible depressive symptomatology.
  • Limit video game time and encourage other healthy activities with friends.
  • Have a conversation about it. Explain the consequences of playing violent video games for a long time.
  • Set boundaries for your kids and stick to them.
  • Ask for their help to come up with alternative activities, which include time with family and friends.
  • Avoid taking away video game time altogether. Doing that could cause them to play in secret or unsupervised. In addition, banning the game altogether would cause them to feel isolated when their friends are discussing the game, which would cause them to feel excluded and disconnected.