02/04/2015 11:15 BST | Updated 02/06/2015 10:12 BST

Violent Video Games Don't Make Children Aggressive, Says Study

two boys aged 10 and 13 playing with games consoles.

Parents have been reassured that playing violent online games does NOT make their children aggressive.

In fact, scientists from Oxford University found that kids who play online games that link up with other players are slightly less likely to have problems relating to other children than those who played alone.

And those who mainly played solitary games generally performed better academically and were less likely to display aggression.

But too much time in front of a screen does affect children - those who played for more than three hours a day were both more aggressive and less engaged at school.

The study, published in the journal Psychology of Popular Media Culture, concluded that fears that a generation of young people are growing up with their development impaired by exposure to violent video games are no more likely to be borne out than previous 'moral panics' over television and other media.

But it concluded that any effects were small and that overall video games were at most a 'statistically significant, yet minor, factor' in shaping children's behaviour.

Researchers interviewed just over 200 children aged 10 and 11 about their playing habits including how long they spent each day and what types of game they preferred.

Meanwhile their teachers were asked to assess the children's academic engagement, behaviour and ability to deal with problems.

Two thirds of the children said they played video games every day – although boys were almost twice as likely as girls to do so. Around one in 10 said they played more than three hours a day, again a group dominated by boys.

Overall those who played for less than an hour a day were less likely to have problems such as aggression than those who did not play at all.

But those who spend more than three hours a day displayed higher levels of aggression and were less academically engaged.

The paper concluded: "Taken together, this suggests that quantity may play a larger role than the quality of games played - a counter intuitive finding for many focused on the violent contents of some gaming contexts."

It adds: "These findings do not support the idea that regular violent game play is linked to real world violence or conflict."

Dr Andy Przybylski, from Oxford University's Oxford Internet Institute, said the fact that the study had not found evidence of a link between violent games and real-life aggression did not mean it doesn't exist but academics are divided about the possible effects.

He said: "Some are of the position that there is no reason to believe that video games are any different from any other kind of media and then there are those who are very concerned.

"I think the jury is out.

"But if you look at the evidence it looks like when violence is in some [other] form of media like film it actually might be much more influential for those who consume it compared to games."

He added: "There are lots of reasons why a young person might be playing video games so much.

"It might be that there is something really fun going on the in game or it might be that there is something going on in the young person's life."