One of the most common concerns we hear from parents is that their kids’ love of video games is causing them to spend their time unproductively. Instead of playing outside or reading a book, they’re glued to a screen. But rest assured, parents– there are proven benefits to playing video games! There have even been several recent studies that generated scientific evidence of the beneficial effects of playing video games.
Here are six surprising benefits kids get from playing video games.
1. Improves social skills and interactions.
Although sitting front of a screen may seem isolating, video games have actually been proven to boost kids’ social interactions. According to the American Psychological Association, 70% of gamers play games with friends. Many kid-friendly multi-player games like Minecraft and School of Dragons create a virtual community for its players, uniting kids through healthy competition and their love of the game. For kids that would rather play video games than a sport, many video games provide an opportunity for them to learn teamwork, leadership, and communication skills, all while having fun with their peers.
2. Exercise for the mind.
While most video games don’t provide physical exercise– with the exception of favorites like Wii Sports and Dance Dance Revolution, of course– many do provide exercise for kids’ brains. Numerous studies have been done that show some games boost cognitive skills; a recent study in Germany even found that people that played video games had an increase in gray matter in the areas of their brains responsible for spatial navigation, memory formation, strategic planning, and fine motor skills. Many of these skills are very applicable to STEAM subjects like math and science, and practicing them through video games can be an educational asset to kids.
3. Boosts problem solving.
In addition, playing video games can help kids develop their problem solving skills. According to the APA, “The more adolescents reported playing strategic video games, such as role-playing games, the more they improved in problem solving and school grades the following year, according to a long-term study published in 2013.” Problem solving is a critical skill for kids and adults, and playing video games is just one of many ways that you can instill creative problem solving in your kids.
4. Health benefits.
A popular focus of video game research lately has been whether gaming can be used as a pain reliever. According to Medical News Today, when children and adults with either acute or chronic pain play an immersive video game, they may receive some relief from their pain. “The focus is drawn to the game, not the pain or the medical procedure, while the virtual reality experience engages visual and other senses,” said Jeffrey I. Gold, Ph.D., director of the Pediatric Pain Management Clinic at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. With the potential to have such a positive impact on health, research on video games and pain relief is sure to continue.
Furthermore, even games that seem mindless can have health benefits in the form of stress reduction. While playing games like Angry Birds, many players experience improved moods, increased relaxation, and reduced anxiety, according to a recent study.
5. Encourages creativity.
Many scientists agree that playing video games can have a direct, positive impact on creative thinking. According to research from Michigan State University, boys and girls who play video games tend to be more creative than those who don’t. They conducted a study of nearly 500 12-year-olds and found that the more kids played video games, the more creative they were in other tasks such as drawing pictures and writing stories.
6. Slows the aging process.
Perhaps the most surprising benefit is the early research that indicates that playing video games can slow the pace of mental decline. For example, one recent study by the University of Iowa found that playing a brain-teasing video game for as little as two hours per week has been found to possibly slow the degree of mental decline associated with old age. But even video games that aren’t specifically made for this purpose may have benefits, too. As recent research has shown, video games are a form of exercise for your brain that can make it stronger, which is even more valuable as you age.
The Bottom Line
Although many parents are concerned about the amount of time their kids spend playing video games, they can rest assured that the right sort of games can provide a fun learning experience with surprising benefits.