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14 October 2016

It’s Fun To Play Nice! Playing Prosocial Video Games Related to Positive Behavior in Children

Keywords: games, gaming, parents, peers, prosocial, kids, social skills, tablet, teens,

Playing video games is often associated with fostering negative behaviors in children. A study in Computers in Human Behavior shows that playing video games can also be related to positive behaviors. However, this only holds for certain types of video games. Specifically, children who play prosocial video games, in which the player must help and cooperate in order to succeed, also show higher levels of empathy and more prosocial behavior (helping, cooperating and sharing).  

Take aways

  • Children who play prosocial video games show more empathy, are more cooperative and sharing, and have a higher tendency to maintain positive relationships.
  • Parents and educators could stimulate children to play prosocial videogames more often, as playing these kind of games is related to positive social behavior. 

Study information

  • The question?

    Is there a positive relation between playing prosocial video games and prosocial behavior in children and adolescents?

  • Who?

    538 participants (mean age: 11.60 years); 59% boys (N = 315) and 41% girls (N = 223); in total, 10 schools in the Republic of Ireland were included: there were five socioeconomically disadvantaged schools (two primary, three post-primary), a private primary school, two Gaelscoileanna, an Educate Together primary school and a mainstream post-primary school

  • Where?


  • How?

    Participants completed questionnaires, including questions about their empathy, prosocial behavior, and video/computer game habits. Besides that, class teachers were asked to rate the prosocial behavior of participants. Parents and guardians of the participants provided information about their socioeconomic status.

Facts and findings

  • Children who indicated to play prosocial video games were more likely to show empathy and to cooperate and share with others. They also had a higher tendency to maintain positive relationships.
  • The positive effect of prosocial video gaming was equally strong for children from various socioeconomic backgrounds.
  • Interesting finding: Children who indicated to play violent video games were less likely to show empathy, more likely to maintain less friendly and affective relationships with family and peers, and had a lower tendency to comply with social norms (e.g. always being on time).
  • Critical note: The current findings are based on relations between variables and no conclusions can be drawn about the cause and effect. This means that it could also be argued that especially prosocial children may choose to play prosocial video games.