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Video Games And Your Child’s Health: Surprising Results From New Study

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Video Games And Your Child’s Health: Surprising Results From New Study

Do you feel that video games are bad for your children, yet they absolutely love them? Are you a bad parent for letting them play video games? Well, a new study says you aren’t. In fact, recent data suggests playing video games could actually have positive effects.

Research Says Positive Correlation May Exist

Researchers at Columbia University and Paris Descartes University have been studying the association between the average time spent playing video games and the mental health, cognition, and social skills of young children.

The study adjusted for a multitude of factors, including gender, number of kids, and age. After reviewing the results, the research team identified that a high usage of video games typically means a child has 1.75 times the chances of “optimum intellectual capacity.” Additionally, that same child has 1.88 times the odds of “high general competence in school.”

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Even more importantly, the study wasn’t able to identify any significant negative impacts on mental health (as reported by the child, parents, or teachers).

“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 Katherine M. Keyes, PhD, one of the study’s primary authors. “We caution against over interpretation, however, as setting limits on screen usage remains an important component of parental responsibility as an overall strategy for student success.”

Keyes went on to add that it’s the children who don’t engage with their friends and peers around gaming that are more at risk for developing problems. In other words, if children are exposed to the right games and put in social gaming situations, everything is generally fine. It’s when they become secluded and distanced from their peers that issues seem to arise.

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Encouraging Healthy Gaming Behaviors In Kids

With this new research in mind, it shouldn’t be a parent’s goal to completely eliminate all video game usage. Instead, parents should be focused on encouraging healthy social gaming behaviors.

If children are playing games on a dedicated video game console, parents should be referencing a source like Common Sense Media, which helps them set guidelines. If children are playing online games, choosing a safe and friendly platform, such as Poptropica, is much preferred over giving them free reign to surf the web.

As previously mentioned, the key is to get children involved with others. Social gameplay gives kids a common tool for conversation and bonding, whereas isolated gameplay encourages children to function in an alternative universe that is neither healthy nor educational.

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Despite the study’s results, Keyes wants parents to be careful with the takeaway.

“I want to be sure that we’re not suggesting in this study that parents should let kids play unlimited video games because it’s good for their mental health. That’s not what we’re saying.”

High volume video game playing certainly isn’t healthy, if for no other reason than it encourages a sedentary lifestyle. However, if children are playing just 30 or 40 minutes of video games each day, there’s no data to suggest it’ll have a negative cognitive impact. In fact, if you go by this study, it may have a positive impact.

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Let Children Play

Video game usage among children is all about balance. Are the children also spending time playing outside, communicating with friends, and eating healthy? Are their grades on par with their peers? If children seem to be checking out on all other fronts, don’t automatically assume that video games are having a negative effect. It’s possible that these short gaming sessions with friends are actually keeping them engaged.

Featured photo credit: Seth Werkheiser via flic.kr

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Anna Johansson

Anna specializes in entrepreneurship, technology, and social media trends.

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