Parents have always been worried about the bad effects of video games on their children’s mental, social, and physical health.
But apparently, playing video games has cognitive benefits for kids, as per a study released in JAMA Network Open in the US. The study was led by Bader Charaani, which is a gamer himself.
There have already been researches that linked gaming with depression and aggression. However, as per Charaani, those studies are limited by their small number of participants.
That’s why, for his study, Chaarani and his colleagues used a bigger sample size from the ongoing Adolescent Brand and Cognitive Development (ABCD) study that’s funded by the National Institutes of Health.
They studied cognitive test results, survey answers, and brain images from around 2,000 nine to ten-year-olds that’s been separated into two groups: those who play games three hours or more per day and those who never played one.
The samples were asked to do two tasks. The first one involved them seeing arrows that are pointed left to right, as well as being told not to press anything if they saw a “stop” sign to test how they can manage their impulses.
Meanwhile, the second task involved testing their working memory by showing them people’s faces and asking if the later picture matched or not.
To ensure the results wouldn’t be skewed, the researchers used statistical methods to control variables like mental health symptoms, IQ, and parental income. With that, the researchers found out that gamers performed consistently better on both tasks.
During the tests, an fMRI that’s used to scan children’s brains reveal that their brains had more activities in regions related to memory and attention.
“The results raise the intriguing possibility that video gaming may provide a cognitive training experience with measurable neurocognitive effects,” the researchers said.
Chaarani said that, currently, it’s not possible to figure out if better cognitive performance drives more gaming or is its result. They hope to have clearer answers as the study continues. They also plan on examining the same children when they are older.
This will also help eliminate other potential factors like the child’s sleep quality, exercise, and home environment.
Still, excessive use of screen time is bad for anyone’s overall mental health and physical activity, Chaarani clarified. However, he said that playing video games could be a better use of screen time than watching videos on YouTube, which doesn’t exercise any cognitive skills.
A long-term study Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking revealed that kids didn’t become aggressive because of playing video games. A previous study even reveals that video games lep kids become literate and emotionally healthy.