video games for children

Can video games be beneficial for children's development?


19 October, 2022

Video games are one of the most controversial activities children play. Many people believe they are harmful and lead to a child's decreased motivation to learn.

On the other hand, many people see this activity as fun and even beneficial for children. Opinions are divided, but we believe that balance and moderation are key, along with the choices we make when it comes to video games.
Video games are not 'bad' or 'good', it's all about balance, moderation, boundaries and choices.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that teens and school-aged children spend an average of 7 hours a day on an electronic device, and 97% of teens ages 12-17 play video games. 

Louisa Rosenheck, a researcher at MIT's Education Arcade Lab and adjunct lecturer at HGSE, along with a team of other researchers at the Education Arcade Lab have developed a set of design principles that underlie the development of what they call "resonant games" - games that are open-ended, exploratory, allow students to make connections to larger systems and concepts, and promote deeper learning.
 
"The children who played the most video games were the ones who saw the biggest gains in intelligence after two years." researchers concluded in a study recently published in the journal Scientific Reports. "This is evidence of a beneficial causal effect of video games on cognition."

Does your child spend too many hours playing video games?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it's important to strike a balance between digital consumption and outdoor activities. There are a few key factors that may indicate problems with excessive video game consumption, including:
  • Sleep deprivation;
  • Attention problems;
  • Transmission of virtual violence;
  • Lack of time management skills;
  • Addiction;
  • Low interest in socializing with friends and family;
  • Low interest in reading;
  • Low interest in physical activities;
  • Risk of being overweight;
  • Risk of carpal tunnel syndrome due to repetitive hand movements; 
  • Aggressive thoughts and behaviours due to violent play.

Are there good options for video games?

Each video game includes a rating system ranging from EC (Early Childhood), which means it is suitable for ages 3 and up, to Adults Only. Check the ratings before buying any game. 

Video games are relatively safe for children. There's plenty of research highlighting the dangers of video games, but there are ways to protect your child. You can prevent potential harm from a video game by monitoring and limiting what they play. Talk to your child about online safety and internet addiction

Building a trusting relationship will make your child want to talk to you when they feel things are getting out of control. This can help you notice if he needs help. There are three parts to consider before worrying about your child's relationship with video games: his personality, the situation he is in, and his motivation behind the video games. These play a role in how they react to different game sequences.

Benefits of video games

Yes, I said "benefits".
  1. Eye-hand coordination, development of fine motor and spatial skills. In various video games, the character can run and shoot at the same time. The player has to keep track of where the character is, what they are moving towards, how fast they are going, what resources they are using and other key elements that put their skills into action.
  2. Multitasking, simultaneously tracking multiple variables and managing multiple objectives. In strategy games, for example, while building a city, an unexpected surprise from an enemy might appear. This forces the player to be flexible and change tactics quickly.
  3. Video games develop problem-solving skills. Video games can strengthen a child's cognitive skills. They can improve your child's ability to think three-dimensionally. 
  4. There are games that can improve the child's mood, promote relaxation and reduce anxiety. If played with family or close friends, then it will definitely be fun. Children can also develop emotional resilience by learning to cope with losses in video games. 
  5. Socialising is another benefit of video games. In a digital world, this is one of the ways your child connects with friends when they are away. Online gaming can connect children of similar ages and interests. 

Tips for a healthy relationship with video games

  • Limit screen time. If your child's games console is in their room, you may not know how much time they spend on it. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests no more than two hours of screen time. Keeping your child's console in another room can help you more easily monitor the time they spend with it. Determine together what the schedule is for video games, balancing it with other activities.
  • Find out what video games she plays. Keep track of the games your child plays. You can even play favorite games together.
  • Study behaviors of concern. If you notice that your child is always tired, irritable or not doing well in school, talk to him about what's going on. Let him know that you want to come to his aid, and find out together how you can improve the situation. 
  • Play together. Sitting down and playing games with your kids is a great way to bond. Games are great for socializing and connecting with others. This can even lead to more openness, your child will want to talk about problems they are having. 
  • If your child is exhibiting sedentary or erratic behavior, it may be time to put a pause on play. However, video games in moderation are a safe way to learn and practice many skills. Maybe it just takes more outdoor activities.

This is also explained by Daphne Bavelier, in her Ted talk Your brain on video games. Daphne Bavalier is a cognitive neuroscience expert specialising in brain plasticity and learning. She is a full professor at the University of Geneva, Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences. She leads the Brain and Learning Lab at the Campus Biotech in Geneva.

Top 10 video games that support the development of different skills in children

  1. Mario series
    The whole family can enjoy this classic character and his friends. Parents will appreciate the joy of playing with all the fan-favourite Mario characters, while kids will love the excitement of the game. Mario Kart, Mario Party Superstars, Super Mario Maker, Super Mario Odyssey are just a few examples where we can discover Mario in different video games.
     
  2. Fifa
    Football fans will love this year's iteration of the popular sports game that gets better and better every year. The stunning video quality makes the games look like a real football match, and plenty of gameplay options make it easy to play alone or with others.
     
  3. Pokemon Snap
    Younger fans will enjoy this edition of the Pokemon game collection. Players will meet a new teacher, Professor Mirror, who will help pave the way. As they travel through new places, such as jungles and beaches, players search for pokemons and are challenged to take photos of what they find. Fun and relaxed, it's especially good for those already familiar with Pokemon. 
     
  4. Just Dance
    Get ready to move with the popular Just Dance game. It's perfect for a group of up to six players. They'll be challenged to keep the beat and move to the music with this fun and interactive game. For families with younger children, there are six family-friendly songs and choreography that are perfect for the whole team.
     
  5. SEGA Tokyo Olympic Games 2020
    Fun for the whole family, celebrate the spirit of the Olympic Games as players choose from 18 different competitive events. A versatile game, it can be played alone, with friends or online with other players from around the world.
    Although technically rated for ages 10+, the game is non-violent and not complicated for younger children. Families will also enjoy dressing up their Olympic avatar and can choose from over 50 costume options.
     
  6. Minecraft
    By now, everyone has heard of Minecraft, the game that has become a worldwide phenomenon over the past decade. What's particularly great about Minecraft is that it's a game that evolves with you. It's a fun experience that gets kids and adults alike to push their imaginations and ingenuity to the limit. 
     
  7. World Rescue
    World Rescue, as the name suggests, focuses on protecting the world from a wide range of serious problems. All of the problems are real, which makes World Rescue a great option for teaching kids about real-world problems in a way that isn't too harsh or scary. The game promotes itself as being inspired by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, a series of 17 goals from the intergovernmental organization.
     
  8. The Little Big Planet
    This game follows the adventures of Sackboy and his friends. The first two games consist largely of platform jumping and avoiding obstacles to get to the next level. Players can also create their own levels, customize characters or build complex contraptions in a level. Finally, players have the option to share their creations on the PlayStation Network.
    Kids will practice elements of logic, spatial orientation skills, design and problem solving. 
     
  9. Animal Jam Classic
    Animal Jam Classic is an online multiplayer game that was developed in collaboration with the National Geographic Society. The game aims to teach children about zoology, predominantly through puzzles and mini-games.
     
  10. The Oregon Trail
    The Oregon Trail series began in 1971 and has since had a multitude of releases. The games were specifically designed to be taught to 8th graders, making them an excellent educational choice.
    The game takes players back to the early 1800s. The player takes on the role of a wagon driver who must safely guide his group from Independence, Missouri to the Willamette Valley, avoiding numerous dangers and overcoming challenges.
 
Video games aren't "bad" or "good," it's all about moderation and choices. As long as video game time is in moderation, there is a balance between screen time and outdoor activities, and your child's academic performance, physical, mental and emotional health doesn't suffer, video games are not a problem. As with many other activities that have potential benefits and risks, balance and moderation are key.

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