Background: No study has ever explored the prevalence and correlates of video game playing among children in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This study describes patterns and correlates of excessive video game use in a random sample of middle-school students in Iran. Specifically, we examine the relationship between video game playing and psychological well-being, aggressive behaviors, and adolescents' perceived threat of video-computer game playing.
Methods: This cross-sectional study was performed with a random sample of 444 adolescents recruited from eight middle schools. A self-administered, anonymous questionnaire covered socio-demographics, video gaming behaviors, mental health status, self-reported aggressive behaviors, and perceived side effects of video game playing.
Results: Overall, participants spent an average of 6.3 hours per week playing video games. Moreover, 47% of participants reported that they had played one or more intensely violent games. Non-gamers reported suffering poorer mental health compared to excessive gamers. Both non-gamers and excessive gamers overall reported suffering poorer mental health compared to low or moderate players. Participants who initiated gaming at younger ages were more likely to score poorer in mental health measures. Participants' self-reported aggressive behaviors were associated with length of gaming. Boys, but not girls, who reported playing video games excessively showed more aggressive behaviors. A multiple binary logistic regression shows that when controlling for other variables, older students, those who perceived less serious side effects of video gaming, and those who have personal computers, were more likely to report that they had played video games excessively.
Conclusion: Our data show a curvilinear relationship between video game playing and mental health outcomes, with "moderate" gamers faring best and "excessive" gamers showing mild increases in problematic behaviors. Interestingly, "non-gamers" clearly show the worst outcomes. Therefore, both children and parents of non-game players should be updated about the positive impact of moderate video gaming. Educational interventions should also be designed to educate adolescents and their parents of the possible harmful impact of excessive video game playing on their health and psychosocial functioning.