This debate has been going on time and time again for years. Should you allow video games or electronics? Should you ban it altogether or just limit screen time? Moms all over have varying opinions about the topic, and can get pretty heated about it, to be honest. But, what does actual research say? Well... It’s surprisingly divided. Research shows both benefit and negatives when it comes to gaming and children, and it all generally comes down to moderation.
Moderation is the key to any kind of indulgence, including gaming. If kids are given infinite free time to play games, the risk of negative consequences rises. Also, parents need to be monitoring game content. It’s up to the parents to put their foot down and decide if a game is too violent or has sexually explicit content in it and tell the child no.
To start off, there are many pros to gaming! One that is spouted all the time is that it helps with hand-eye coordination, but did you know it can improve memory and cognitive functions as well? Well, let’s get started with the pros of gaming, and find out just what is so good for kids when it comes to gaming.
12 Improves Hand-Eye Coordination
Anyone who has ever played a video game probably guessed this one. Studies show that when you play video games, your reaction time greatly improves, without sacrificing accuracy. Reasoning behind this one is actually pretty common sense.
Think about it, you’re playing Call of Duty (or your husband is, whatever) and you’re having to move fast and hit your targets. You start off not as good, but you improve with time. Playing video games means you need rapid processing of sensory input, and fast action, making the players make decisions and responses at a faster pace than in everyday life.
11 Improves Working Memory
First thing’s first... What’s working memory? Well, it’s the part of short term memory that deals with the immediate conscious perceptual and linguistic processing. It helps kids hold on to information long enough so they can use it, and it plays an important role in concentration and following instructions.
Well, studies are showing that, with the amount of memory needed and the way you have to problem solve in games, that these games are improving the ability for children to use their working memory. And it makes sense, honestly. Video games are in depth and require you to remember the little things in order to get by in the game and win, so it makes sense that memory is trained and improved.
10 Encourages Pro-Social Behavior
A ton of research has been done on violent games and the negative effects they have on children, but how often do we hear about the positive aspects of gaming and children? Studies are showing that prosocial content in video games can increase prosocial behavior in children, both short and long term.
But, what is a prosocial game? A prosocial game has little to no aggression by the player, but even some violent games can have prosocial aspects and acts. So, those games like Super Mario Sunshine, Cooking Simulators, even some Final Fantasy games, all have this prosocial content that is good for kids.
9 Increases Cognitive Flexibility
The ability to change thinking between two different concepts or ideas, and also thinking about multiple concepts at the same time, also known as cognitive flexibility, is pretty important to have. It can enable you to think about, say, reading and math, at the same time, which comes in handy when you have to do word problems for math class.
Studies have shown that playing strategy based games can make people think more flexibly. The study showed that these real-time strategy games promote cognitive flexibility, especially with conditions where the player must switch quickly between contexts while maintaining their memory for both contexts. So, World of Warcraft might be useful after all.
8 Helps Improve Reading Fluency
With studies showing that video games improve attention, why not see if it can help with reading as well? Well, that’s the mindset that the University of Padua had, when they did their study.
They found that after their gaming sessions that they had done, that the children in the study, who all have dyslexia, which makes reading far more difficult, could read faster, and in some cases the results were the exact same or even better than a year of actual, traditional therapy. Seems crazy, but it shows that training a child’s attention can mean better reading skills without any reading training.
7 Increases Social Involvement
There are a lot of games that require working as a team to accomplish the goals and tasks in the game, which helps with improving social and emotional skills. The game Mekong e-Sim was specifically made for university students to help them with geography and engineering, and the results were surprising.
The students thought it helped not only their electronic communication skills, but also their team building skills as well. This goes to show that multiplayer games can be an asset when it comes to helping build social skills.
However, everything has a negative aspect attached to it, and yes, that includes gaming. Video games can be a great asset, but they can also be a negative one as well in many ways. One that we hear about all the time is the violence in gaming, and the exposure to mature content. But, what else is there? Well...
6 Exposure to Violence with Gaming
Many, many, MANY people feel that the violence in gaming is something that their children need shielding from, and believe me, I agree. But it goes farther than that. Some studies show that there is a causal relationship between violence and antisocial and aggressive behavior.
Some even think that Video Games are worse than TV, because where TV is passive, Video Games are active. Also, the players are more likely to identify and see eye to eye with the views of a violent character, and in first person shooter games, they have the same perspective as the killer. This is obviously worrisome to some parents, and with good reason.
5 Increased Potential for Addiction
When we think of addiction, we think of drugs, alcohol, and even sex... But we rarely think of video games as an addiction. In some medical texts, internet gaming is listed among the things being considered for a later study and possible addition to later editions of psychological texts.
It seems that teens, especially males, seem more prone to video game addiction, but identifying the kids who are vulnerable can be hard because of the popularity of gaming in all age groups across the board. And also, it’s noted that role playing gamers are more vulnerable to addiction, but so are shooter and strategy gamers. People play games as an escape from real life, and that can be alluring and go beyond, into addicting.
4 Higher Levels of Obesity
Because video gaming is a sedentary activity involving less movement, generally speaking. Not all studies have shown the same link between gaming and obesity as there is between TV and obesity, but some have shown very close similarities.
With more and more content moving from the TV to the computer and the phone screens, time will tell, as more studies on these games develop, and more of the new generation spends more time on these new media forms, if there is more of a link or less than once thought.
Also, there are new video games coming out called ‘active video games’, which require that the player move around to control the main character, and trading traditional games for these active games can help curb body fat in overweight kids.
3 Ignoring Other Activities for Prolonged Periods
With the ability to now take games everywhere with them (and us.... Candy Crush, anyone?), kids are immersed in the potential to game all the time, which can lead to them ignoring other activities because they prefer to play games. Many parents do not make rules about how long their kids can play games, and this leads to kids playing games for prolonged periods.
If parents made rules about it, studies show that children spend three whole hours less than children who have no rules... Think about it, that’s three extra hours that can go towards reading a book, drawing, or going outside... That’s good in my book.
1 Can Result In Bad Psychological Adjustment
While some studies show good social and cognitive adjustment, other studies show much worse results. These studies show that both low and high levels of gaming per day was linked to key indicators of psychosocial adjustment.
Low engagement, aka less time, was linked with higher life satisfaction and more prosocial behaviors, but on the other hand, the opposite was found to be true for those who have high levels of gaming per day. This goes hand in hand with the last point, that time limits are important if gaming is going to be allowed in the household.
So, to wrap it up, there are benefits and negatives, which should be obvious to anyone. It’s up to the parents to balance out the good and the bad, and to monitor what their children are doing when they are on the TV or video games. If you have any questions on the topic, there is a ton of research out there. Look up some studies, and make your own determinations as to what would work for you and your family.