Turn off the video games! Parents often yell this phrase to their children especially on days when it is too cold to play outside. Video games seem to create a constant distraction for our children, with more than 97 percent of them playing for at least one hour a day according to the American Psychological Association. As a parent, it is easy to feel concerned when video games seem like the most important thing in the world to our children. However, there are at least five reasons why video games can be beneficial to our child’s growth and development.
They help them make friends
When we see our children playing video games, we often think of it as a solo or isolating activity. However, according to a study in the Review of General Psychology, the children who were studied saw video games as intensely social. Video games provided the children a rationale for hanging out and spending time with friends. The games were also a focus for casual conversation among peers. In another study looking at the association between the amount of time children spent playing video games and their mental health, it was found that higher amounts of time spent video gaming was associated with decreases in peer relationship problems.
They teach history and culture
The video game market is flooded with games based on history and different cultures. Some of the war-themed games are designed for more mature audiences. However, games like SimCity allow children to develop a city from a patch of green land, ensuring that their decisions will keep their citizens happy. Age of Mythology takes its inspiration from the Greeks, Egyptians, and Norse and follows an admiral who is forced to travel through different civilizations and cultures.
They improve sports performance
FIFA Soccer, Madden NFL and NBA Live are a few of the popular video games that simulate sports. The video games have become so realistic, that some believe they can help children understand their sport better. I interviewed my 15-year-old son for his opinion. I asked him if he thought that playing a soccer video game helped his real soccer game. He said: “Definitely. When I see the motions played at a fast-paced speed, it can help me run the movements through my head and try to mentally improve my game. I can also learn new stuff from the games. Like if I see the ‘around the world’ soccer trick, then I will start practicing the same move with a real soccer ball.”
They require problem-solving
Problem-solving is central to many video games. Whether it is finding the fastest route or making choices based on consequences, children who play video games are often in the middle of complex problem-solving schemes. According to a study published in the American Psychologist, game players are often given little instruction on how to solve the in-game problems. Instead, players have to explore a huge range of possible solutions based on past experience or intuition. Instead of learning through a manual, children are required to problem-solve through trial and error.
They prepare them for an emerging workplace
A study from the University of Oxford shows that nearly half of United States jobs are at risk of computerization and automation. The workplace of the future will require our children to adapt quickly to a constantly changing environment. They will need to take the information they see on a computer screen and make quick decisions. It will be necessary for them to work with other people online, similarly to their present-day game playing.
They should be played with supervision and moderation
While video games have the power to help our children grow and develop, they still need supervision and scrutiny. We know that sitting in front of a computer all day is not good for our children. According to the American Heart Association, the prevalence of obesity in children more than tripled from 1971 to 2011. And, no matter the medium, whether they are books, television shows or computer games, children need our supervision to choose information that is developmentally appropriate.
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Tracy Davenport, Ph.D., is a freelance health writer and the C.E.O. of Tracy’s Smoothie Place. She serves as the expert on a weekly radio show about health and wellness and is the author of Making Life Better for a Baby with Acid Reflux and multiple articles about the cost of caregiving. Learn more about Tracy and what healthy living services and products she can offer on her website. She can also be found on Twitter and Instagram @drinksmoothies.