The link between violent video games and aggressive behavior in teens continues to be explored, with the latest research finding time spent playing games matters more than the games themselves.

British researchers looked at 217 teens — nearly an even amount of boys and girls — and their video game-playing habits, as well as their individual personalities. A little over half of girls had never played video games before compared to the 13 percent of boys who had. Of the video game-playing girls, three percent spent three or more hours on games compared to sixteen percent of boys.

The results showed the kids who played video games the most each day were the ones likely to develop behavioral problems, including hyperactivity, as well as struggle in school. But even then, study author Andrew Przybylski, an experimental psychologist at the Oxford Internet Institute at Oxford University, said the “observed behaviors were very small in magnitude, suggesting only a minor relationship at best and that games do not have as large an impact as some parents and practitioners worry.”

Interestingly, when teens reduced their playing time to an hour each day, there were actually benefits.

"Individuals who regularly played less than an hour a day of any type of game were actually less likely than their non-playing peers to fight with or bully peers and were rated as better behaved by their teachers," Allison Fine Mishkin, a graduate student at Oxford Internet Institute who co-authored the study, said. "This suggests that, in small doses, video games are a valuable and valid form of play which we do not need to fear."

Both Przybylski and Mishkin believe their study is different from others because they relied on the teen’s teacher assessments, not self-reports from teens themselves. Though not everyone agrees with this. Craig Anderson, director of the Center for the Study of Violence at Iowa State University, told HealthDay “the study doesn't say much that's new, and he believes that violent video games have been proven to increase aggressive behavior and thinking;” eight out of 10 experts agree violent video games lead to aggression.

Yet, the present study doesn’t exactly discount the opposition; it simply suggests video games under certain conditions can impart positive, rather than only negative, changes.

Mishkin concluded: “These results highlight that playing video games may just be another style of play that children engage with in the digital age, with the benefits felt from the act of playing rather than the medium itself being the significant factor.”

Source: Przybylski AK, and Mishkin AF. How the Quantity and Quality of Electronic Gaming Relates to Adolescents Academic Engagement and Psychosocial Adjustment. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 2015.