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Video games as virtual teachers: Prosocial video game use by children and adolescents from different socioeconomic groups is associated with increased empathy and prosocial behaviour

Brian Harrington, Michael O’Connell


The main aim of this study was to determine if there was a positive relationship between prosocial video game use and prosocial behaviour in children and adolescents.
This study had a cross-sectional correlational design. Data were collected from 538 9–15 year old children and adolescents between March and December 2014. Participants completed measures of empathy, prosocial behaviour and video game habits. Teachers rated the prosocial behaviour of participants. The socioeconomic status of participants was also gathered.
Multiple linear regressions were conducted on these data. Prosocial video game use was positively associated with the tendency to maintain positive affective relationships, cooperation and sharing as well as empathy. This association remained significant after controlling for gender, age, school type (disadvantaged/non-disadvantaged), socioeconomic status, weekly game play and violent video game use.
These findings provide evidence that prosocial video game use could develop empathic concern and improve affective relationships in a diverse population of young people.
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