Conventional wisdom may still say video games are a bad thing, but the evidence is slowly piling up: Moderate video gaming is associated with emotional and intellectual intelligence. A new study in Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology says video game use is associated with better academic functioning and sociability in grade-schoolers. Lee Banville, in an article in Games and Learning, interpreted the study for us non-medical types.
According to Banville, the study, called “Is time spent playing video games associated with mental health, cognitive and social skills in young children?” found that “kids who played video games five or more hours a week did better in school and suffered no emotional or mental health problems.” The study came out of Columbia University and included data on kids aged 6 to 11 from six European Union countries.
The study acknowledged what a lot of parents already know: That kids love to play video games with other kids. And video gaming in a group, such as playing Minecraft with classmates, can open social doors. This can be especially true for kids who don’t play sports. Video games give them a way to practice teamwork. As this study notes: “…Playing video games is today, even more so than in the past two decades, a highly social activity for most children as the vast majority of children play their video games with a friend…Some games explicitly reward effective cooperation, supporting and helping behavior.”
According to this study, kids who play a lot (5 or more hours a week) seem to have fewer social problems than those who play less or not at all. One of the researchers on this study, Katherine Keyes, said video games may be helping kids integrate with their peers. “According to our data,” she said, “video gaming is entirely beneficial for cognitive functioning as well as for some aspects of mental health.”
This doesn’t mean that parents should give up on the whole idea of limiting screen time, of course. But it does mean it may be time to relax a bit more about your grade schooler’s Minecraft hobby.