Study Reveals A Surprising Benefit For Kids Who Play Video Games

Video games have gotten a bad rap when it comes to the effects they can have on children. Somewhat understandably so, seeing as research has shown links between time spent gaming and subsequent vision problems, headaches, as well as muscle, nerve, or tendon injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome or "gamer's thumb," as per Harvard Health Publishing.

However, a new longitudinal study published in Scientific Reports suggests there may be cognitive benefits for children who play video games daily. Collecting data from 9,855 kids, researchers conducted baseline intelligence tests on boys and girls between the ages of 9 and 10 designed to assess various cognitive skills, including oral reading recognition and auditory verbal learning. After calculating the average amount of time the kids spent watching TV, socializing online, and playing video games each day, researchers then followed up with roughly 5,000 of the child participants two years later, at which time they re-administered the intelligence tests (via HealthDay).

Video games can be a workout for kids' brains

Whether on a phone, computer, tablet, or gaming console (per Scientific Reports), at the ages of 9 and 10, the collective amount of time kids reported playing video games each day averaged one hour (via HealthDay). At the end of the two-year follow-up period, researchers discovered that children who exceeded one hour of playing video games each day performed better on their intelligence tests, as demonstrated by an increase of 2.5 IQ points over average scores.

Furthermore, study findings remained consistent when factoring in socioeconomic status, genetics, and parental education (via HeathDay). Offering a possible explanation for the boost in brain power, experts suggest that the active cognitive engagement required with most video games gives our brain more of a workout than the passive act of watching TV or scrolling through social media feeds. "The more someone practices or plays these video games, the more they reinforce the neural pathways involved in accomplishing the objectives of the game — and those same neural pathways may be involved in other types of real-world decision-making that factor into our measures of intelligence," American Psychological Association member Dr. Anish Dube, who was uninvolved in the study, tells HealthDay.

While these findings may come as welcome news to video game-loving children, more research is still needed to better assess the positive and negative effects of gaming on children's mental and physical health, reports HealthDay.