Parents’ mediation behaviors to video games (Nikken & Jansz, 2006)

Since John Rice had mentioned me in his blog, I couldn’t help myself to put another paper on this blog despite being in my final undergraduate year with thesis paper and grad school applications. I guess I can’t resist positive reinforcement.

Now some mentioned parenting and video games, surprisingly my PsycINFO search (Parent & video or computer games as my search terms) revealed few papers that seemed revelant to me. Now this paper I got it around mid-october 2007, part of my monthly VG article search.

Update 14/11/2007: there’s an interesting news article about parents’ behaviours and attitudes towards video games. My favorite quote in that article is a parent say “Do something that has some lasting value.” If I get a nickel everytime I hear, I’d be rich. We do things that has no lasting value, looking watching tv or reading a novel, etc. This article says that parents (43%) do nothing about videogames, and just whine about it. But please take a look at the news article.

It is to be about how parents would manage kids’ play with video games.


Through an Internet survey of 536 parent–child dyads, the authors researched which mediation strategies parents used to regulate videogaming by their children (8–18 years). Factor analyses revealed that both parents and children distinguished three types of parental mediation: (1) ‘restrictive mediation’, (2) ‘active mediation’, and (3) ‘co-playing’. These strategies are comparable with mediation types that were established in research about television. Comparing the parents’ and children’s reports it was found that both groups had highly congruent views about the application of mediation. Parental mediation of videogaming was most strongly predicted by the child’s age and the parents’s game behavior. Furthermore, parents applied more restrictive and active mediation when they feared negative behavioral effects and more often co-played with their children when they expected positive social-emotional effects of gaming.

Nikken and Jansz examined parental strategies on dealing with children’s video game play, which in it is termed parental mediation. Based on previous research on parental mediation on children’s television watching, they come up with three types:

  • Restrictive mediation: Restricting on what their kids can see and how much time they have.
  • Active mediation: parents commenting and discussing the T.V. shows that the kids were watching
  • Co-playing or co-viewing: parents actively participate in the activity

Sounds nice, but I do wonder whether these mediation strategies have any links to parenting styles. I mean, restrictive mediation sounds like what authoritarian parents would do because they’re so strict on their kids’ behaviours. But I guess there are some good parents who are restrictive. Hmmm… It would mean that mediation strategies depend on parents’ attitude towards certain gaming genres and not in general. Also, I do wonder if co-viewing also includes elements from active mediation, I could imagine kids asking their parents so many questions while watching the telly.

What about active mediation? There should be a sub-group on whether it is effective vs. ineffective, mostly positive vs. negative opinion on content, destructive criticism vs. constructive discussion (i.e. a parent using big words to criticize a show he hates. God! My dad lectures on everything from telemarketers to my buying groceries)

What distinguishes video games and the telly are two things: interactivity and differential social context (e.g. kids play alone or with friends, parents don’t really play video games with their kids, especially the older generation parents, I must ask about the younger generation who grew up with video games).

Alternatively, Nikken and Jansz wrote that parents might use similar mediation strategies they used for television towards video games. IMO, parents probably know much less about video games than their kids and would have to rely on experiences with television. Nikken and Jansz would have agreed, in addition they wrote getting kids’ report on their parents mediation strategies would be invaluable. There are several reasons: kids are actively playing video games, kids’ perception of their parents’ attitudes and behaviours are probably a bigger influence than the actual parental attitudes and behaviours and parents might misreport in order to look good. Most importantly, parents and kids hold different attitudes and beliefs about video games and its content (and use the wrong words to communicate, i.e. some dad: I’m going to turn off the hard drive.)

Predictors of parental mediation are based on parental beliefs and attitudes on a particular media. So parents who are concerned about the negative effects of video games are going to adopt restrictive and active mediation strategies. Those who believe on the positive effects would likely adopt active and co-playing mediation strategies. IMO, if we look further on parenting style or parental hostility or “assholeness” or parental control or right-wing authoritarianism, it might help differentiate parents who use restrictive mediation from active mediation regardless of their media beliefs and attitudes.

Other predictors of parental mediation include children’s age (more likely to mediate with younger kids), gender (more on girls than boys), mothers, education (the higher the more likely, probably those of lower education adopt “neglectful” or non-existent mediation, but I do wonder if lower education would more likely adopt restrictive mediation), family size (the smaller, the more restrictive, probably because parents in bigger family have less time to discuss tv content) and parents media use is positively related to co-playing and co-viewing.


  1. Parents will have at least two types of opinions on video games, one positive and one negative.
  2. Parents with a negative belief on video games will use restrictive and active mediation.
  3. Parents with a positive belief on video games will use active and co-playing mediation.
  4. Restrictive mediation is most applied by parents of younger children and girls, higher-education, mothers and small families.
  5. Active mediation is most applied by parents of younger children and girls, higher-education and mothers.
  6. Co-playing is most applied by parents of younger children, higher-education, mothers and with high use of television and video games.



536 parents and their children in the Netherlands responded to an internet questionnaire. These participants were contacted from a database of people who are interested in media research. Some demographic data: 51% of parent respondents are fathers, parent average age: 41.7 years, 59% of children respondents are boys, children average age: 12.4 years. They justified their internet methodology and I think it’s fine.


There are two questionnaires, one for the parents and one for the children. The participants are told to think about their gaming in general, not about the specific gaming platforms or specific games. Questions in each section are randomly ordered for each parent and child.

Perceived impact of videogames (parents only): 30 statements (some positive, some negative) about particular effects of video games on 3-point scale (disagree, somewhat agree, fully agree) (geez, why is the middle “somewhat agree”, why not “I don’t know?”)

Types of parental mediation (parents and children): 15 questions on how frequent (rarely, now and then, often) and type (restrictive, active, co-playing) on parents’ use of parental mediation towards video game play. IMO, so 5 questions per mediation type, well it is based on previous research so they might be accurate.

Demographics: questions on children’s age, gender, number of siblings. Parents’ education level. On three-point scales: parents’ video game play, children’s video game play, children’s “how much the liked to play”.


So they used a “principal component analysis with varimax rotation” to analyze parents agreement on statements on the effects of video games. They found five categories parents had distinguished: 1- behaviours and attitude 2-children’s physical health, 3- learning, 4- socio-emotional well-being and 5- cognitive skills.

What was found from parents’ agreement scores to statements first place to have the highest score: positive effects on cognitive skills, second place: positive effects on learning, third place: negative physical effects. The least endorsed of video game effects were negative behavioural and attitudinal effects and positive socio-emotional effects.

On to parental mediation, they used the same type of analysis. It seems that some of the parental mediation questions were deleted because they are trying to have the three types, but some of the questions were ‘loaded’ with more than one factor. I don’t understand what they are saying or explaining, so I am at a loss.

From their analysis, they categorized 5 questions (monitoring gaming behaviour, specifying games that are appropriate, reading content description, forbidding certain games and gathering information about games) as restrictive mediation.
They categorized 5 questions (telling games are just fantasy, pointing to bad things in a game, pointing to good things in a game, explaining what happens in a game, evaluating game contents) as active mediation. Finally, they categorized 3 questions (playing together, playing together (child asked for it), playing together (parent wants to) as co-playing.

The results on the frequency of mediation type showed that restrictive mediation was the highest, followed by active, then co-playing. Interestingly, while restrictive and active scores differ statistically, they seem so close. As for co-playing, it is clear-cut the lowest.

Comparing mediation scores from parents and children reports, reliability (using cronbach’s alpha) seems to be good on the type of mediation used. However, it seems the frequency of the type differ. Although, Nikken and Jansz is confusing me, so I quote: ” in an absolute sense parents and children systematically differed […] in prevalence […] differences were largest for restrictive and active mediation […] in a relative sense, parents and children did not differ in […] amount of mediation applied […] restrictive mediation was the most common strategy […] co-playing most uncommon.” Why they are talking about absolute and relative numbers is beyond me.

Setting that aside, it seems that children reported less mediation strategies on all three types than parents’ report and mediation strategies frequency decrease with age, both from children and parent report.

They used hierarchical multiple regression analysis to determine the relationship between demographics, parental beliefs about video games and parental mediation. I’ll explain for each type:

Restrictive mediation: demographics’ variance (24% in parent report, 28% for child report, 29% for combined report). So from these percentages, it seems that lower-education, parents who played more often, younger children, mothers and towards girls accounted for restrictive mediation. When looking at beliefs on video game effects, it added 1% to 2% of the variance accounting for restrictive mediation. The highest belief stems from beliefs on the negative effects on behaviours and attitudes.

Active mediation: demographics’ variance (15% for parent report, 20% for child report, 20% for combined report). So lower-education, parents who played more often and towards young children account for active mediation, but much less than restrictive mediation. When adding video game beliefs, it added 2% to 4% of the explained variance; again this comes from the belief on the negative effect on behaviours and attitudes.

Co-playing: Demographics seem to have a higher variance (36% for parent report, 31% for child report, 38% for combined report). So, parents who played with games more often, and with younger children. Adding video games beliefs, it accounts for about 1% to 2% of the variance. This stems from beliefs on the positive effects on social-emotional well-being.


Co-playing looks clear-cut to me, but the determinant factors for active and restrictive mediation are the same, which makes the distinction between active and restrictive mediation pretty vague. What’s interesting is that parents who played video games more often than average are more likely to use all three types of mediation strategies, that sounds nice considering that parents with first hand knowledge of video games can tell the games’ appropriateness for their kids, discuss it properly and know how much time to give kids to play. Thus, parents with first hand experience with video games are likely to mediate than those without. However, Nikken and Jansz cautioned this relation because it can be either the cause of the mediation or the result of the mediation.

Since the same demographic variables affect restrictive and active mediation, although to different extent since it accounts a larger percent variance for restrictive than active mediation. What differentiate active and restrictive are the beliefs on video games effect, however these beliefs account much less percent variances than demographics. IMO Therefore, there are possible explanations in mind to that effect: other beliefs or concerns may account a larger variance, such as the belief that video game waste time; it may have a larger variance if given more study; parenting style; parents’ opinion on how their children deal with the media, some may be overly concerned that their kids aren’t [[media literate]]; and, as I reported in the previous paragraph, general knowledge of video games.

Nikken and Jansz proposed explanations as to why parental beliefs on video games accounted little variance on mediation strategies: most participants already had positive beliefs on computers in general and parental beliefs on video games are not fully formed as in the case for television.

I am curious as to why lower-educated parents are more likely to mediate than higher-educated parents. Nikken and Jansz proposed that lower-educated parents had more time playing video games and had stronger beliefs on restrictive and active mediation. IMO, I’d look at the age of parents to check for a generational confound.

The authors discussed on the practical issues of parental mediation, especially when parents have beliefs on the negative impact of video games. They said that they should not only have active mediation, but also restrictive mediation as well. One reason is that without restrictions, kids are more likely to play more inappropriate games citing the ‘forbidden fruit effect’. IMO, wouldn’t having restrictions also influence kids to the ‘forbidden fruit effect’? In any case, they proposed a future study examining on parental mediation strategies and kids playing inappropriate video games.

IMO, I do wonder on the relation between parental mediation and children’s aggression. Again, I’m referring to parenting style in which several studies have found that parents of highly aggressive children are authoritarians. But I’m also curious about whether parents use the same thematic strategies in other contexts, like in parks or schoolyards. Another concern is the frequency of mediation between television and video games, even though parents do mediate for video games. There’s no telling if they are treating video games as often as they do with television.

IMO, future considerations are to observe parents’ mediation in home environments, albeit it might be expensive and time consuming. Perhaps, asking parents to respond to hypothetical stories on what they children are watching and behaving. Or simply ask them on their opinions and what their strategies they used for television and video games.
Nikken, P., & Jansz, J. (2006). Parental mediation of children’s videogame playing: A comparison of the reports by parents and children. Learning, Media & Technology, 31(2), 181-202.


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