Many people associate playing video games with being socially isolated and struggling to connect with others offline. Others argue that video games are often played with other people and teach valuable communication skills and cognitive skills, like spatial awareness and problem-solving. A recent study, published in the journal Child Development, investing the effect of playing video games on social competence found that video game addiction affects social skills in girls more than boys.
Do Video Games Affect Social Skills?
“Gaming had no effect—positive or negative—on the social competence of boys at any age,” said Beate Wold Hygen, a postdoctoral fellow who led the research. “With girls aged 10, it did.”
The researchers asked children when they were 10 and 12 to report on their usage of video games on tablets, PCs, game consoles, and phones, and their parents to report on their gaming habits when the kids were six and eight. The kids’ teachers completed questionnaires on their social competence, including measures of cooperation, assertion, and self-control.
While considering these findings, it is important to note differences in social expectations between boys and girls at this age. Girls are generally considered more socially competent than boys, so the social deficits reported in girls who play video games may seem more significant compared to their female peers. On the other hand, boys may have similar levels of social competence at this age, regardless of how they socialize with others.
Why are Girls More Affected By Playing Video Games?
Stereotypically, boys socialize by playing video games and girls socialize via social media. It is possible that video games affect social skills in young girls due to peer acceptance and gender roles rather than the behavior itself.
“Given the differences in boys’ and girls’ social lives with peers, time spent gaming may carry less of a developmental ‘cost’ for boys,” the study explains. “Since gaming is less socially normative for girls, there’s more of a penalty for those who do it. “Girls who game may not only have fewer in-person girls to game with, but also to a greater extent be excluded from non-gaming social interaction with same-aged girls, and the socialization that follows.”
As middle school girls struggle to connect with peers their age for having “different” interests, they may become more socially isolated which may explain the negative impact of playing video games as a coping mechanism.
Teens with Social Anxiety More Vulnerable to Video Game Addiction
Teens who struggle with social anxiety or fitting in at school may find it easier to socialize online, where they are more in control of their interactions and have the opportunity to reinvent themselves. For some, social media can be a tool for them to connect with others and to stay up-to-date with their acquaintances without having to socialize in person. Even when hanging out with others in person, they may pull out their phone and scroll through social media for conversation topics. Often, the connections they form online are more superficial than offline relationships. Many teens also struggle with social media-related anxiety based on a fear of missing out if they log off.
Treatment programs, like Asheville Academy, that work with a specific population [ie. middle school girls] have a better understanding of the social struggles this group goes through and offers therapeutic strategies that are developmentally appropriate. At Asheville Academy, we recognize that social anxiety and social isolation are often the root causes of technology addiction, not technology itself. Recognizing this, our focus becomes helping girls strengthen social skills and engage in healthy social activities so that they can develop a healthier relationship with technology.
Asheville Academy Can Help
Asheville Academy for Girls is a therapeutic boarding school for middle school girls ages 10-14. Our students commonly struggle with anxiety, depression, ADHD, learning differences, and attachment issues. We are a relationship-based program that focuses on building meaningful connections through teamwork, group therapy, experiential activities, and small classrooms. Parents stay actively involved in their daughter’s therapeutic journey by learning skills through family therapy and workshops.
For more information about how our program can help your daughter’s video game addiction and social skill issues, call 800-264-8709. We can help your family today!