Video Games May Have Positive Effects on Kids, Study Says

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Parents who are worried about their children sitting in front of a screen playing video games may be able to stop fretting. A recent study has discovered that young gamers might have better skills intellectually and socially than kids who do not spend hours playing video games, says Kirill Kallinikov of the Russian publication RT.

The study, authored by Katherine M. Keyes, Ph.D., assistant professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health, was published in the journal Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology.

“Video game playing is often a collaborative leisure time activity for school-aged children. These results indicate that children who frequently play video games may be socially cohesive with peers and integrated into the school community,” said Keyes.

Still, parents should use caution as they interpret the results of the research. It is always important to set limits on screen time and parents need to be responsible and continue to do what is best for their children.

The team of scientists at Columbia University’s Mailman School and colleagues at Paris Descartes University gathered mental health information from thousands of young people ages six to eleven across Europe. Children, parents, and teachers were given a questionnaire, which the researchers later analyzed.

After adjustments for age, gender, number of children in the family, and other factors, the researchers found that those who played video games regularly were 1.75 times more likely to increase their high intellectual functioning. Children who played video games frequently were also 1.88 times more likely to have higher academic competency in general.

The team did not find a correlation that was significant between playing the games and health problems, which is a common concern among teachers and parents. According to the data, one in five kids in the study spent over five hours a week playing video games.

In a 2015 report published by Harvard Medical School, there was a suggestion that people who play games on the computer could develop a proclivity for the tasks they repeated while playing, but it did not show that the games alone enhanced brain skills such as memory and attention.

Another 2015 report found that action video games were linked to improved attention span, brain processing, and cognitive functions. But a 2010 study concluded that there was no evidence that computer games had a positive effect on the brain.

No significant child self-reported or mother- or teacher-reported associations with mental health problems occurred during the research, says India’s IANS.

In recent years, more information has come to light refuting the negative beliefs that video games cause violence and antisocial behavior. Research has shown the benefits of spending large amounts of time playing computer games to improve multiple sclerosis patients’ cognitive functions, writes Steve Smith of Medical Daily.

The mental health screening used for the study was a tool called Dominic Interactive, which is a combination of colorful pictures and text morphed into a standardized test that is masked as a game. The children looked at a picture, like a girl whose parents are angry with her, and the words on the image, and then were asked a question, such as “Do you often feel worthless or guilty?”

Christine Hsu of Headline News & Global News quoted the study’s authors:

“Playing video games may have positive effects on young children. Understanding the mechanisms through which video game use may stimulate children should be further investigated,” researchers concluded in the study.