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? But the questions remains: are video games good or bad for kids?
Do My Kids Spend Too Much Time Playing Video Games?
This is a question many parents ask, especially during the COVID pandemic, when the number of Americans who play video games increased from 214 million to 227 million people according to a survey by the Entertainment Software Association. Many of the most enthusiastic gamers were under 18.
On the one hand, proponents of video game industry will tout the statistics on how educational video games or strategic games can improve math skills, spatial skills, motor skills, and more. Designing their own game characters, writing music online, or creating new worlds can promote creativity in exciting ways. But on the other hand, critics of the industry cite problems like physical health problems, addictions, or even mental disorders too much gaming can exacerbate.
So what’s the truth? How much is too much?
Some Facts About Video Games for Kids
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.
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 games increase 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.
How Do Video Games Affect the Brain?
Anyone who has played any type of video game can notice the effect on brain function and can see the sensory output is far greater than “real life.” Even though virtual reality headsets haven’t quite taken off like their developers might have hoped, as the metaverse and web 3.0 technologies develop, video games will become increasingly sophisticated and life-like.
When it comes to effects on health and brain development, different video games can either supplement learning or have negative impacts on child development. According to a study from Northwestern University, researchers found that interactive educational games and apps benefited kids, whereas action video games that were violent or simply for entertainment purposes had negative impact on the brain.
What Are the Benefits of Video Games for Kids?
A recent study in the Behavioral and Brain Functions journal shows that fast-paced games increase cognitive skills, such as multitasking or fast decision-making. Other studies have found video game playing, especially strategy games, to promote cognitive skills, visuospatial skills, executive function, and hand-eye coordination.
Plus, there are benefits to the emotional, social, and creative development of young people. Games like Minecraft and Roblox, for example, can spur cooperation with others. Especially during the pandemic when so many children couldn’t see their friends in person, interactive online games were a great way to develop social skills.
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 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.
What Are Some Negative Effects of Video Games on Kids?
It’s impossible to look at the positive effects of video games without seeing the other side. In addition to concerns about violent games increasing negative behaviors, video game addiction can be another unintended consequence of too much game time. An estimated 8.5% of children and teens worldwide might have a video game addiction, up from about 4% in 2007.
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.
Keep Calm and 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! There are several interactive family video games you can all play together.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) provides a tool to create your own personalized family media use plan. It establishes rules and goals 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. media use
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.
But no matter how engaging virtual worlds of video games might be, they’re no substitute for getting your kids running around outside, enjoying nature, and having real face-to-face interactions with others.
Does your family have any great tips on making the most of video games? Let us know on social #getfamilyapp!