How Video Games Are Good For Kids
If you know kids who like to play video games, whatever you do, don't let them get their hands on this information! The last thing you want them throwing back in your face is the possibility that playing video games might not be all that bad for them. In fact, in many ways, it turns out that video games just might even be good for kids (and adults)...including making them smarter. This just sound so counterintuitive to all the info we are bombarded with, about the dangers and evils of any kind of screen time - including video games. But it turns out that the science is saying something else.
A study in Germany found that people who played a video game actually had an increase in the size of the part of the brain that has to do with memory, strategy, and fine motor skills. A British study found that video gaming resulted in more flexibility and speed on cognitive tasks, in their performance on psychological tests. And a University of Iowa study found that playing certain kinds of video games may help the brain stay younger as we age.
It only makes sense. I mean, a game is a game. Whether you're doing the crossword puzzle in the newspaper, or playing a video game. Researchers have long known that keeping the mind challenged and active is an important way to maintain the brain's elasticity as we grow older. As it turns out, video games work just as well if not better than the brain-building games people have played for centuries. Video games are very complex activities, challenging many cognitive functions at the same.
Contrary to the popular complaint of parents and teachers, video games don't necessarily decrease attention spans. In fact, they might even be making kids better at concentrating, and kids with problems like dyslexia, better at reading. Video games are also being studied for their effectiveness in helping with depression, to reduce feelings of pain and anxiety, and to improve eyesight. Video games often require problem solving and decision making, great skills to have in the real world, too. And games where players work together remotely in real time, develop teamwork skills.
Finally, while not a study that would hold clout in the scientific world, my son wanted to explore this question for himself. So for his science fair experiment, he had people take a test, then play a video game, then take the test again, to see if they would score higher after playing the game. (The control group took the test after a period of waiting, without playing a video game). He found a slight increase in the scores of testers who had played the video game. Just over half, 57%, scored better on the 2nd test after playing a video game.
Of course, being smart in the real world involves a multitude of factors - so just playing video games (or playing them practically all the time), really isn't a strategy for success. Everyone pretty much agrees that there are still down sides to video games. Like with just about everything in life, moderation is the key. If you play video games so much that you're not getting your homework done, not getting exercise, and not socializing with live people in real situations, then you're playing them too much. They can be associated with weight gain and poor grades for this reason. And, there are real and valid reasons to be concerned with associations between violent video games, and real-life violence and other problems. The key is to have video games as just one part of a balanced life. So enjoy, and have fun! So as long as kids are going outside, getting exercise, socializing, getting reasonable grades, cleaning their rooms a little bit some of the time, and they know what a book is, don't stress too much about the video games. You never know how it might be leading toward enhanced creativity and problem-solving, among other skills, in the competition for the jobs of the future. And, as many teachers know, certain educational video games can even be fun and helpful tools in the classroom.