20 October 2021 (updated)

Are Video Games Good or Bad for Kids?

Dinner is ready, but instead of your kids storming downstairs to take a seat, you hear: “Five more minutes, we're playing video games!” Sound familiar?

Some Facts About Video Games for Kids

Over the last years, Americans have been watching less and less TV. However, the amount of time people stare at screens hasn’t actually changed much. So what's changed?

People are spending more time on other devices such as smartphones, computers, and tablets since they've become more affordable. And young people often use them to play video games. In fact, a 2019 study indicates that showed that 73% of American teenagers play video games, up 6% from the previous year. And that number is growing.

Video games can be both positive and negative. On the positive side, it can sometimes be quite nice to know your kids are occupied, and several video games could have positive or educational benefits. They might even learn something new.

On the other hand, some video games can negatively affect users. Some research has shown that violent video gamesincrease aggressive behavior. Also, video games can lead to stress or even addiction. Let’s take a deeper look at video games, so you can decide for yourself how their use might affect your family.

What Are the Benefits of Video Games for Kids?

When you read about video games, most articles seem to focus on violent action games. We hear
about games where hunting and killing appear to be the main goal. However, there are many types of video games, and some can have great benefits for your children.

A recent study in the Behavioral and Brain Functions journal shows that fast-paced games increase cognitive abilities, such as multitasking or fast decision-making. Plus, there are benefits to the emotional, social, and creative development of young people. Games like Minecraft, for example, can spur on cooperation with others.

With some video games, children need to create a new world through drawing and storytelling. Others challenge them to solve puzzles or mysteries. And with many, they need to interact with other players. With all those benefits in mind, you could still argue that today’s youth are turning into couch potatoes, but some video games have physical benefits, too. The American Council of Exercise looked at research on the Wii console. It decided that there are notable fitness benefits of playing Wii games.

Game Over?

Keep Calm, Create a Media Plan

Just as with everything in life, moderation is key. As long as your kids don’t spend all their time in front of the screen, and you’re aware of the kind of games they’re playing, gaming can be fun for the whole family!

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) provides a tool to create your own personalized family media use plan. It establishes rules and goals of media use for everyone in your family. Not only does it set ground rules that make family life easier, but it also includes your kids in the decision-making process. That makes it more likely for them to stick to the rules and understand the potential dangers that come with gaming.

Clear, consistent communication is key. So make sure that you are able to follow through on the plan and limits you set for video game use. You can even use FamilyApp to help keep communication lines open.

While reports on benefits put video games in a positive light, they also can present many dangers. The most severe potential impact is gaming addiction. According to a national Harris Poll survey, ten percent of video game users between the ages of 8 and 18 showed clear signs of addiction.

How do you know if your child has a gaming addiction? Do they excessively play video games, bring home bad grades, steal money, or develop problems with attention? Would they want to skip multiple meals or social engagements so they can keep playing their favorite game?

Then you might have an addict on your hands. If you’re worried about your kid’s gaming habits, take a look at this questionnaire from Families Managing Media. It gives you an idea of what to watch out for.

Another aspect of gaming that’s also often discussed is the link between aggressive behavior and violent video games. While some studies show that those types of games do increase aggression, it hasn’t actually been proven that they provoke violence.

But however you look at it, playing video games indoors does have one major downside. It means your kids are not running around outside, enjoying nature, and having real face-to-face interactions with others.

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