Using Game‑Based Training to Reduce Media Induced Anxiety in Young Children – A Pilot Study on the Basis of a Game‑Based app (MARTY)


  • Tanja Heumos
  • Michael D. Kickmeier-Rust



anxiety disorders, trait anxiety, game-based treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy, physiological measures


Digital games have been successfully applied for the treatment mental health problems such as stress disorders, traumatic disorders, or hyperactivity syndromes. Specifically the treatment of anxiety traits and anxiety disorders such as phobias have been in the focus of game‑based treatments in the past. A societal challenge that is increasing in recent times is media‑induced fears in young children. While tailored game‑based treatments existing for schoolchildren, tailored and theoretically sound solutions for children below the age of eight are sparse and so is the available body of empirical research in this direction. In this paper, we present a game‑based training app (MARTY) for teaching young children to cope with their fears. The training is based on standard techniques for anxiety reduction such as breathing techniques and cognitive strategies. We investigated quantitative effects, measured by physiological values such as heart rate and skin resistance (EDA), and qualitative aspects of the MARTY app based on 17 four to six year olds. Overall, we found significant effects of the training on EDA values, as indicators for the arousal and anxiety level of children. No significant differences were found for heart rates. A key finding is that the training effects are positively correlated with the general anxiety level of children, as reported by their parents. The MARTY app may be a promising tool to guide and support parents and young children in reducing fears and anxieties.



1 Jul 2020