Playing video games is letting young people stay in contact with their friends, helping them cope during lockdown.
A new study by gaming accessories company HyperX shows that online gaming is proving its worth as an outlet for young people, during a time when 1 in 4 have been shown to be struggling.
The study of 13 to 18-year-olds found that over half of young people are staying connected to friends via online gaming platforms during lockdown, gravitating more towards gaming than socialising over social media, messaging and video calling apps.
Parents were also asked for their opinion on how gaming has affected their child, with 77% of parents believing that it has helped their child stay connected with their friends during lockdown.
Half of parents also agreed that it has benefitted their child’s mental health.
Previous research on gaming culture has suggested that the online play provides a way to spend time with your friends and make connections with new people from around the world, helping improve the emotional and mental wellbeing of players.
Data also shows benefits regarding the learning pace, mental focus, spatial awareness and multitasking capabilities of young people.
A study published by East Carolina University suggests that playing video games for 30 minutes per day can help alleviate clinical depression and anxiety.
Research from the University of Oxford supports these findings, showing that participants who played video games for longer reported feeling better, on average, than those who played far less frequently.
Gamers reported that online play gave them feelings of freedom and competence, and an improved sense of well-being and social connection.
Read more: Gaming is good for mental health – study
However, many policymakers do not share this positive attitude towards gaming. Plans for a regulator to protect children from “excessive screen time” were announced by Boris Johnson’s government last year and the World Health Organisation identified “gaming disorder” as addictive behaviour.
The condition has been criticised by academics behind studies concerning gaming, with Andrew Pryzbylski, renowned researcher of virtual environments at the University of Oxford, suggesting there is a lack of robust evidence for many of the supposed harmful effects of gaming.
In contrast, Pryzbylski’s own work suggests that the longer a person plays video games, the more of a beneficial effect it will have on their mental health.
Despite concerns from policy makers and some parents, who claimed in the HyperX study gaming to be a ‘waste of time’, academic Dr Dieter Declercq of the University of Kent states: “The importance of gaming’s social function has become even more significant during lockdown.”
Dayna Sinclair, UK regional manager at HyperX further stresses the value of gaming during the pandemic, stating that “it is a way to connect, talk, make friends and compete while stuck at home.
“Gaming brings people together even when we are apart.”
Written by Alice Lynes
News reporter for Talking Mental Health
Twitter & Instagram: @alicelynes