Parents are using smartphones to bond with their kids

19 Aug 2011

Smartphones and video games apparently increase bonding within families, new research suggests. Four out of five UK and Irish parents describe playing video games with their children as “quality time.”

The study by PopCap in partnership with Goldsmiths University suggests parents may actually use video games to increase increase their kids’ technical understanding and concentration abilities.

The study, conducted by Dr Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, Reader in Psychology at Goldsmiths University, examined how parents in both the UK and Ireland used games to interact with their children.

Segmenting the small Irish sample, indications are that in Ireland, 92pc of Irish parents play casual games with their children daily. It also found that:

·         69pc of Irish children surveyed are more relaxed after playing

·         78pc or Irish children report an improvement in their understanding of technology through playing

·         56pc of Irish children felt an improvement in concentration span (focus) through playing games

·         48pc of Irish children reported improved problem-solving ability through playing games

Families that play together, stay together

Of the total 3,250 parents that took part in the combined UK and Irish study, a third (32pc) play computer games with their children every day. 80pc described this as quality time and one in three reported greater bonding with their children as a result of playing these games. One in five parents (22pc) said that playing computer games has helped their children develop a better understanding of technology.

The research, conducted by PopCap Games, in partnership with Dr Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic of Goldsmiths University, specifically looked at the role of ‘casual games’ – simple puzzle or strategy games, such as Plants vs. Zombies, Angry Birds or Bejeweled – in helping parents and grandparents bond with their children and grandchildren.

The study revealed that 3.8m parents play casual games with their children and that many grandparents are using casual games as a way to get closer to their tech-savvy grandchildren.

Debunking the myth that video gameplay comes at the cost of ‘healthier’ pursuits, three-quarters of parents state that their computer game-playing children also exercise regularly and eat healthily. A third of parents believe that their children are able to concentrate better thanks to playing casual games, while 53pc believe their children have improved problem-solving skills thanks to playing casual games.

“Video games are becoming as popular a mainstream lifestyle entertainment as movies or music and finding a place in family life alongside traditional parlour or board games – or in many cases, providing a new video-game format for family favourite board games,” said Cathy Orr, a spokesperson for PopCap.

“PopCap has conducted a lot of research to prove that casual games are not only extremely fun but can also aid stress relief – undoubtedly a positive for family members across the board!”

Children as young as two becoming proficient in the use of smartphones

The study also shows that the growth in casual games has resulted in children as young as two becoming proficient in the use of smartphones and other tablet devices, and more than a quarter of parents (27pc) reported that their children borrowed their smartphone every day to play casual games.

Chamorro-Premuzic said: “These findings are important because they highlight the social benefits of playing video games. Previous research has tended to look only at the individual effects of video games, but in the era of social networking, games appear to play a vital role in enhancing social relationships.

“The fact that both parents and grandparents are using games to connect with their children and grandchildren, and quite successfully, suggests that video games can improve social skills and make a key contribution to both effective parenting and child development.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years