All parents get worried about letting their kids play video games or watch too much TV. Will it affect their brain development? Will it cause them to not do their schoolwork? Will it affect school performance? Will they hate books? How do video games affect kids’ minds? Will the effects be good or bad?
While one study in the American Journal Of Pediatrics finds that video games can cause anxiety and poor school grades, another study finds that playing video games is better than watching TV. Playing video games can cause the brain to develop in different ways, and there seems to be some benefits to playing certain types of games that involve strategy and problem solving. Games that let children make decisions, solve problems, and plan strategy can actually affect the brain in a positive way. Furthermore, games where you have to try out different strategies and tactics allow kids to do trial and error to come up with new, innovative ways to get to their goal. The games that cause anxiety are most likely to be those with violence, conflict and disturbing images.
Positive Effects of Video Games
A University of Rochester study found that video games can help with reaction time and multitasking ability. Speeding up reaction time can help with skills like driving, sports, and school situations where the ability to think and react quickly is key. This may be why video games are better than just watching TV. TV is a passive activity, while video games engage the brain and force kids to react and participate.
Strategy Building and Problem Solving
There are certain types of video games that help develop parts of the brain that deal with strategy building and problem solving, but they have to be very specific types of games to really develop this skill. Games like StarCraft that involve quick thinking and a fast-paced game environment will be useful in the development of this skill. However, slow-paced games like the Sims are less effective in training the brain to think quickly and learn from mistakes. If you do let your children play video games, make sure they are involving some strategy skills that can be useful in other areas of life.
The same University of Rochester study also found that action games helped with decision making. These types of games trained participants to make quick decisions because, if they didn’t, then their game performance would be affected. This can help kids with timed tests, school projects, social decisions, and calculating probabilities. These are skills that will help kids in school and later in life, with jobs and social situations.
Negative Effects of Video Games
On the flip side, too much gaming can cause kids to want to skip schoolwork and avoid studying, so everything should be done in moderation to lessen the risk that they will become “addicted.”
While there hasn’t been extensive research on video games and depression, there have been a few studies done that link the two together. An Iowa State University study found a definite correlation between playing video games excessively and a tendency towards depressive behavior. However, games can also make children who have depression problems already more depressed as they retreat into a habit of gaming.
Outdoor play, physical activity, and social interaction would be a better remedy for a child who tends toward depression. Children who do tend to be depressed and have social anxiety would be more likely to play games which would increase those issues. They need more encouragement to get out and do other activities.
Poor Physical Health
It’s no secret that playing games prevent kids from being physically active. It is difficult to play video games and get a workout at the same time. While there are interactive games like Wii, Guitar Hero, and Dance Dance Revolution, most video games are not physically engaging. This can affect the health of kids because it is important to do physical activity as an outlet for energy. Excessive video game playing has been linked to obesity, and playing games late at night can also cause sleep problems and bad dreams.
While researchers have not found a link that video games can cause attention deficit problems, they have found that gaming can make these problems worse. Kids who have trouble paying attention find it easier to focus on fast paced video games because nothing is ever staying the same. However, this is not a good model for real life, and, therefore, can worsen their issues. In real life, where rewards don’t come as quickly, and the pace is slower, it can be frustrating for children with ADHD and cause them to tune out faster.
It is clear that video games can have benefits for children, but only certain types of games can help develop the brain positively. Let children play strategy games and more positive video games that use problem solving skills but limit the amount of time they are able to play. Allow for balance in their life as well. Make sure that they are getting their schoolwork done, reading books, and getting outside to play with their friends. Balance in all aspects of life is key for proper development and happiness.
What is your experience with your kids and playing video games? Leave us a comment!
Elisa Travalio, Teacher and Blog Writer at A Grade Ahead