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Research Shows Video Games Have Some Enriching Benefits

Video games have long had a bad rap when it comes to children and the effect that these digital creations have on their young minds. Recent studies have shown that what used to be considered poor parenting, may actually be beneficial to your child. In fact, allowing your child to play these games responsibly, and with set limits, can increase their cognitive and creative abilities. Parents.com agrees with these reports, writing; “Many recent games, such as Bakugan: Defenders of the Core, involve planning and problem-solving. "Modding," the process by which players customize gamer characters' appearance and develop new game levels, also allows for creative self-expression, deep understanding of game rules and structure, and new ways of highlighting personalities and interests. Video games don't have to be labeled "educational" to help children learn to make decisions, use strategies, anticipate consequences and express their personalities.”


Other research concluding the same positive effects has been published in the journal of Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology. They suggest that game type and length of play can offer varying degrees of results


Children And Gaming


In most households across the United States, families will find that older children and teens spend the most time playing video games, but as games and applications continue to be developed for tablets and phones, younger children are also taking an interest in digital games.


One study found that up to seven hours a day is the average time spent watching television or playing video games for children from ages eight to eighteen. These studies can be alarming to parents who may not realize just how long their child is spending online or with a game. Fortunately, by finding responsible gaming limits for kids, parents can relax knowing that short amounts of time on these activities can increase creative functionality.


Games which tell stories, such as role playing games, can increase levels of social awareness and capability in kids who find it difficult to express themselves. Medical News Today reports on a study which reflected this, and other positive results, stating; “After adjusting for age, gender and number of siblings, results indicated that high video game usage led to a 1.75 times greater chance of high intellectual functioning and 1.88 times chance of high overall school competence. Playing video games was not significantly linked with any mental health problems, according to the child, their mother or their teacher.”


Social and economical issues did play a role in the above studies, providing insight to the types of kids who play games and what their parents are like. So long as parents set responsible time frames for play, the majority of participants saw improvement in cognitive ability.


Adults And Games


While it is more common to see a teenage boy spending his time on a video game, there has also been data to express that these video games can positively impact adults, specifically aging adults. Research concluded by the University at North Carolina State, found that these digital exercises can increase memory and processing in seniors. The team deducted this through use of a Nintendo Wii system and the use of bowling games. Medicine Net reports; “Follow-up tests found that the seniors who played the strategy video game improved their performance on tests of memory, reasoning and cognition. There were particular improvements, Kramer said, in what's called executive control processes -- abilities such as planning, scheduling, dealing with ambiguity and multi-tasking.”


These increases in cognitive function can be explained through social interaction, the need to effectively respond to activity on screen in a timely manner, and utilizing something new and unexplored. For many seniors, video games aren’t a part of their standard everyday routine. Implementing something new and different caused participants to become more aware of what they were doing and increased focus.


Cons Of Gaming


Of course video games have pros and cons, and although they have shown some great improvement in people of all ages in terms of cognitive abilities, they can also offer disadvantages. Violent games can be problematic for real life stimulation, making it difficult to react normally to aggression in the outside world away from the television screen. Long hours spent gaming can also make it more difficult for individuals to become social and make friends, which can lead to depression and other mental issues down the road.


All things should be used in moderation, which is why most researchers on the above studies agreed that while gaming can be beneficial, it must also come with limits. Time limits and age limits for games which contain adult content should be considered.


Many children under the age of 18 are playing games which should be monitored by parents or restricted due to explicit and violent content. These violent games can help to increase organization and reaction skills when attempting missions which are time sensitive and require unique types of ammunition or weapons, but playing these games too young can have a negative effect on the child going forward.


Parents are urged to keep track of the hours during which children play games, and the types of activities being performed in these games. With this being said, it is clear that research agrees with the hopes of kids across the country, that video games can have social and mental advantages for players and should be encouraged by parents who want to see their children improve in these areas of life.

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