Video games can make your child smarter? Apparently so…
“Video games involving navigation or other spatial tasks help boys and girls learn to visualize and rotate objects… Encouraging girls to play video games could improve their spatial reasoning.” – Welcome to Your Child’s Brain
How Does Playing Video Games Benefit Your Child?
In numerous studies, video games have been found to help improve learning, attention, multi-tasking, information-processing and decision-making. To understand more about this, watch Daphne Bavelier’s talk on TED:
For more detail, Daphne Bavelier’s research articles are available for download.
A 2013 study by the American Psychological Association (APA) found that children who play action games have higher spatial resolution in visual processing, are able to focus their attention more quickly and accurately, exhibit and execute quick thinking and response, more efficiency in neural processing, an increase in creativity. In a nutshell, kids who play video games are, indeed, exercising their brain, but they’re also building their metacognitive, or higher order, thinking. – Net Nanny
Video Games Boosts Brain Volume
In a study led by Simone Kühn using Super Mario 64, they found:
“that just 30 minutes of gameplay per day for two months can actually increase the volume of gray matter in the areas of the brain that control spatial awareness, memory, and strategic thinking.” – IFLS
The areas of the brain that have been augmented are “crucial for spatial navigation, strategic planning, working memory and motor performance”. Since working memory has been recognised as the common factor among prodigies, it suggests that playing video games like Super Mario 64 for 30 minutes a day over two months makes us smarter.
Video Games Improves Reading
This study was done on dyslexic children so it would be interesting to find out if this also applies to children without dyslexia. The video game in question involved shooting silly rabbits with a plunger gun – Rayman Raving Rabbids. The findings in this study supports the idea that “dyslexia is not only a disorder of linguistic centers of the brain, but may also involve areas that govern attention and motor skills.”
Interestingly, attention-training using an alternative method was not effective in improving reading skills as they discovered when they compared a group of children receiving attention-training versus a group of children playing Rayman Raving Rabbids:
researchers selected 20 children who had been diagnosed with the disorder but were not video-game players. The 10-year olds came in to the clinic and played either action or action-free segments of the Rayman Raving Rabbids video game for about 12 hours over the course of 2 weeks. At the end of the study, kids in the action-video-game group showed improved reading speed and accuracy, whereas the group playing the non-action video games did not. The level of improvement, said Gori, was “better than 1 year of schooling,” and was still apparent after 2 months without game play. – The Scientist
Study Source: Current Biology (28 February 2013)
Video Games Boost Brain Power
Cognitive Flexibility is the ability to adapt and switch between tasks, and think about multiple ideas at a given time to solve problems. It is accepted as one of the cornerstones of intelligence. The study cited measures cognitive flexibility of the participants involved.
Researchers found that the participants assigned to play StarCraft experienced gains in their performance on the psychological tests after the study period. They had greater speed and accuracy in cognitive flexibility tasks — which were meant to assess the ability of a person to “switch” from one task to another — than those who played The Sims.
Plus, researchers found that “the volunteers who played the most complex version of the video game performed the best in the post-game psychological tests – Huffington Post
- Plos One (7 August 2013)
- Eureka Alert (21 August 2013)
- Do violent video games have an upside for kids?
Hold Your Horses!
Before you go “no-holds barred” on video game playing for your child, it is probably wise to note that:
- “not all video games are created equal and may not deliver the same brain-boosting power that was seen in this study. This may necessitate the adoption of a second rating system to identify the positive attributes of a particular video game in addition to the current system that describes the negative content of the game, such as violence or profanity.” – IFLS
- Too much of anything is never good (we subscribe to the philosophy of “everything in moderation”).
What about video game violence and aggression?
After all that, you may be wondering about this one and rightly so. It seems the jury is still out and I guess it is because there are too many variables. For instance, Games like Halo or Call of Duty have players aiming down the barrel of a gun, whereas strategy games like Starcraft offers a top down view that removes the player from the action. Some violent video games actually help people work off stress.
- Are video games really the villains in our violent age?
- What is the link between violent video games and aggression?
- Research says linking video games to gun violence is a “classical illusory correlation”
- Claims that “video games lead to violence” leads to violence
- Violent video games reduce teens’ self-control, study shows
- Do violent video games lead to real violence?