Is gaming really beneficial for children?

Is gaming good for children or does it have a negative impact?  As with everything in life, it’s not that simple to answer…

Games have educational uses like teaching economic skills; for example negotiating, purchasing strategies and some are even used in schools/colleges for economic courses.  For example, many games allow players to obtain points or money which can then be used to purchase items or upgrades which will increase their interests in the game.  These features simulate markets, and in fact, can become commodities outside of the game.  Some games teach problem solving skills, players will be given a set of rules to follow and must figure out the best way to achieve the goals set in the gaming context.  If the game has multiple players or teams, problem solving is achieved in a social context, which teaches people to communicate and cooperate well in a group.

Researchers have discovered that frequent game players score better at eye tests as compared to non-gamers; also, playing some games improves logical thinking ability and problem solving skills.  Games such as SimCity, Age of Mythology, where players have to build houses, cities and develop strategies help them develop their logical skills and aid in decision-making.

The biggest concern with video games has been the amount of time which people dedicate to playing them.  Nine out of ten children play video games, and many of them play for hours a day.  On average, children play video games two hours a day with 64 percent of all American children playing at least one hour a day.  Part of this obsession is because most games always contain a new level or challenge, and this creates a compulsion to continue playing.  Other reasons include pressure to continue playing to compete with other players around the world.  When more than two hours a day is spent playing video games it’s often at the expense of other activities like school work or social activities.  This is what many fear is happening to almost all children these days; they are stopping social activities in favor of video games.  People who play games for long periods are likely to get long-term problems like bad posture and RSI (repetitive strain injury).

“90 percent of American children between the ages of 8 and 16 spend an average of 13 hours a week playing video games. As a result, they often spend less time engaged in healthy physical activity.”

“Children who play lots of video games may experience several other issues. One of them is increased somatic complaints, such as gastrointestinal issues, heartburn, nausea and headaches. These children can begin to exhibit attention problems such as hyperactivity or ADHD. Finally, as a child puts himself more and more into a video-game world, there can be a decline in verbal memory performance. This usually goes hand in hand with a loss of socialization.

This research shows that children don’t only have psychological/mental effects from excessive gaming but also start to feel physical effects, illness such as heartburn, nausea, hyperactivity or ADHD. Games do prove to be a positive influence on people; for example by improving their hand-eye coordination, multitasking and team work, but will cause negative effects such as nausea and headaches if the user spends too much time playing. The top negative effects of video games are:

  1. Increase in emotional disorder symptoms
  2. Increase in behavioural disorder symptoms
  3. Declines in verbal memory performance
  4. Attention problems such as hyperactivity, ADD or ADHD
  5. Detrimental school performance (as video game usage increases, GPA and SAT scores decrease)
  6. Family interaction problems such as less positive parental relations
  7. Significant reduced amounts of slow-wave sleep
  8. Modifications in visual selective attention
  9. Playing violent video games is a significant risk factor for later physically aggressive behavior