Social Exclusion Impacts Child Physical Activity Behaviors

Brief simulated ostracism in a video game tied to subsequent reduction in physical activities

MONDAY, Feb. 6 (HealthDay News) -- For children, simulated ostracism is associated with reduced participation in physical activity, according to a study published online Feb. 6 in Pediatrics.

To investigate the effects of stimulated ostracism on children's physical activity behavior, Jacob E. Barkley, Ph.D., of Kent State University in Ohio, and colleagues conducted two experimental sessions in 19 children (11 boys, 8 girls; age 11.7 ± 1.3 years) who played a virtual ball-toss computer game (Cyberball). In one session, children experienced ostracism and in the other session they were exposed to the inclusion/control condition; the condition order was randomized. After playing Cyberball, children had free-choice access to physical and sedentary activities for 30 minutes in a gymnasium. Physical activity was assessed via accelerometery and sedentary time was assessed through observation. Children reported their liking for the activity session via a visual analog scale.

The researchers found that children accumulated significantly fewer (22 percent) accelerometer counts and 41 percent more minutes of sedentary activity after experiencing the ostracized condition compared to the inclusion condition. There was no significant difference for liking the activity sessions between the conditions.

"Simulated ostracism elicits decreased subsequent physical activity participation in children. Ostracism may contribute to children's lack of physical activity," the authors write.

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