The bigger worry for many parents isn't whether kids are getting enough exercise, but whether video games interfere with real sports activities and time with friends and family or distract children from academic pursuits. Researchers from the University of Texas at Austin looked at how nearly 1,500 adolescents and teenagers, ages 10 to 19, spent their time, and compared the habits of video game players with nonplayers. (The data were collected in 2002 and 2003, before the new active games were popular.) Over all, there were no significant differences between gamers and nongamers in the time they spent with parents and friends, or involved in sports or other active leisure activities, according to the report in July in The Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. Among girls, video-game play had no effect on reading time. But for every hour a boy played a video game during the school week, he read just two minutes less than a boy who didn't play video games. Notably, nongaming boys didn't read much at all either spending only eight minutes a day with a book. Video games didn't affect boys' homework time. But girls who played video games during the week spent 13 fewer minutes on homework, representing about one-third less time, than nongamers. But the meaning of that finding is not clear, as high-academic achievers often spend less time on homework as well. Researchers say far more study is needed to understand what type of children play video games and how time spent playing games affects other parts of their lives. "The notion is, if kids weren't watching TV and playing video games they'd be reading or outside running up and down a soccer field," says Elizabeth A. Vandewater, a co-author of the Texas study who is now a senior research health analyst at Research Triangle Institute, a social science group in North Carolina. "It's not an even trade-off."
The New York Times
Moving Beyond Joysticks, and Off the Couch