Video Games Help Kids Develop Socially and Academically

Were your parents concerned with the amount of time you spent trying to get your name as the highest scorer on the local arcade’s Ms. Pac-Man cocktail arcade game?

It’s normal for parents to worry about their kids, but it turns out that worrying about your child’s time spent playing video games might be pointless. In fact, if they spend at least five hours per week playing video games, it might help them adjust to their social group and develop academically, according to a European public health study.

The Study

Researchers studied over 3,000 children between the ages of 6 and 11 in Europe in 2010. Children were required to take a computerized psychological test. Parents and teachers both filled out questionnaires. The researchers based their findings off the parents’ assessment of how many hours the child spent playing video games.

They inserted specific controls, such as allowing for the fact that certain types of children were more likely to play video games: boys, kids who were on the older end of the age limit, and kids from two-parent homes.

Even after those allowances, kids who played at least five hours of video games per week were rated better academically and socially by their teachers. Kids who played less than five hours of video games scored lower, both in teacher ratings and in psychological testing. Overall, kids with continuous video game use had fewer psychological problems.

What Do the Results Mean?

For years, video games have been associated with a certain stigma. Normally, frequent video game use is linked to the isolated, “brainy” kid. Many believe that too much time spent playing video games results in mental health issues and the inability to adapt socially.

These results point to a difference in the way modern youngsters are actually affected versus the common perception. Video games are becoming an integral part of children’s lives, and they aren’t as damaging as previously thought.

Of course, there is probably a point where excessive video game use leads to problems with a child’s growth and development, but further study is needed to establish an exact tipping point.

For now, researchers instruct parents to set healthy limits on video game use, and don’t fret about any potential negative side effects. Your kids (and you) may benefit from the occasional foray into the digital world.