Are video games beneficial to children?
- The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that 'consistent limits on media use' be placed on kids ages 5 to 18. Additionally, they caution that screen time 'should not replace time needed for sleeping, eating, playing, studying, and interacting with family and friends.'
- Pew Research reports that 'roughly three-quarters of parents (77%) say it is acceptable for children to begin playing video games when they are younger than 12.'
- Statista reported in 2019 that 87% of parents thought that 'video games can be educational,' while 75% said that 'they were concerned about their child's safety when playing online.'
- The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) works with The International Age Rating Coalition (IARC) to rate US video games. ESRB's website states the process allows them to 'monitor rating assignments, test product upon release to ensure those ratings were properly assigned, and promptly adjust the ratings when necessary.'
Video games are a valuable, proven learning tool for children, offering a host of documented developmental and educational benefits. Video games boost attention and cerebral activity, strengthening and optimizing multiple functions of the mind. Numerous studies consistently reveal a variety of abilities are enhanced through gaming, from three-dimensional thinking and problem solving to social and cognitive skills and beyond.
Diversity in video game genres and styles available on the market further expands their reach for positive influence on youth: exercise games promote physical activity, cooperation games encourage collaborative behaviors, action games improve eyesight and increase decision-making speed without worsening accuracy, while strategy games enhance memory and intellectual functions, and have been linked to academic achievement.
Gaming is a healthy way to de-stress, boost mood, reduce anxiety, and support emotional wellness. Games support reading confidence, creativity, communication, coping with loss, mental flexibility, and empathy. There’s currently an FDA-approved video game to treat ADHD in kids, gaming bolsters reading abilities in dyslexic children, and data shows the potential of games to reduce known student achievement gaps created by poverty. Gaming even changes brain structure and expands gray matter.
Gamers tend to be more educated, social, and successful. Games build life skills and can pique interest in technology, presenting an array of career paths. Critics have argued that certain games cause violent behavior, but such claims are heavily disputed and repeatedly disproven by a growing body of research, including proof that violent video games actually decrease violent crime.
As technology has evolved and advanced over the years, so has the graphics and gaming experience, tempting children to over-engage in video games.
Statista reports that 20% of video gamers in the US are under the age of 18, and, in 2018, teens aged 15-19 on weekdays spent an average of 49 minutes gaming, and on the weekends spent more than 90 minutes. According to WebMD, there are negative effects of excessive video gaming that could lead to sleep deprivation, hallucinations, irritability, and addictive tendencies. Additionally, studies have found that extended periods of gaming in a sedentary position can lead to a 'higher incidence of having low physical fitness, having poor eating habits, and being obese.'
The same adverse effects that adults suffer when addicted to social media have been recorded in children who spend hours playing video games. Research around unhealthy gaming, or 'gaming disorder,' states that over a six-year period, 10% of adolescents experienced symptoms such as depression, shyness, and aggression. The study found that these children--who tended to be boys--would play video games 'at the expense of homework, sleep, exercise or relationships with family and friends.'
Further, based on research done by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, while some video games may have educational advantages, many games exhibit images of violence, senseless killing, criminal behavior, obscene language, and sexual content. Being exposed to such content at a young age tends to numb and desensitize a child to these vices and could lead to aggressive behavior.
The various emotional, social, mental, and physical adverse effects that too much video gaming offers children outweigh any perceived benefits.