It’s Mario vs. Donkey Kong in the karts, green for go, and the race is on. And when it’s dad vs. daughter at the controls, it’s not only fun,
but, according to a recent BYU study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, it may also promote improvement in the girl’s mental and emotional health.
The study investigated adolescents ages 11–16 and their parents to see if video gaming has any positive impact within the family. The researchers, assistant family life professors Sarah M. Coyne and Laura Padilla-Walker, say that girls who gamed with parents exhibited lower aggression and more positive social interactions.
Boys did not show the same positive outcomes, perhaps because they spend more time playing alone or with friends, making parental coplay just “a drop in the video game bucket,” says Padilla-Walker.
Game types may also be a factor. Adolescent boys more frequently listed games like Halo and Call of Duty that are rated M (for mature) as their favorite coplay games, while girls preferred E (for everyone) games like Mario Kart and Guitar Hero. Playing M-rated games as a family had weaker effect on family connection compared to the benefits of playing E-rated games. Researchers say the inappropriate content and intensity in M-rated games may interfere with the positive interactions the other games induce.
So playing the right games can be good for girls. Yet researchers say the real power may be in spending time together, and Padilla-Walker notes that board games or other activities
may be just as effective. The important thing is “that parents be involved in the types of age-appropriate games that their children are interested in,” she says.
Yet, advises Coyne, “if your daughter is really into gaming don’t be afraid to give it a go.”