Could Video Games Be Good for Your Teen?

By JustMommies staff

When it comes to video games and teens, you've probably heard about the negative effects of playing video games, including aggressive behavior, video game addiction, social isolation, and lower interest in other activities (school, physical activities, etc). But, is it possible that playing video games could be good for your teen?

Believe it or not, playing video games has quite a few benefits. The downfall is when kids get addicted and play too much. Researchers from Oxford University recently published a study on video game playing. What they found was that kids who played video games for an hour or less per day were happier and better adjusted than children who didn't play video games at all. And, even when children played more than that, up to 3 hours a day, there were still no negative affects from gaming. When problems arose, it was in children playing excessively - more than 3 hours a day. However, the study's author said, these negative affects like aggressiveness or behavior issues were weakly linked to playing video games. There are more important factors on a teen's behavior than video games, including a well functioning family and good relationships at school.

What are the benefits of playing video games?

Playing video games provides challenges for your teen's brain. According to research published in the American Psychologist, playing video games may strengthen your teen's cognitive skills such as reasoning and memory. In addition to strengthening cognitive skills, games also provide the opportunity to learn mastery. Mastering a game is rewarding, and the desire to reach mastery of a game or a level may carry over to other areas in your teen's life.

Video games provide teens with a means to unwind, relax and get rid of stress. They can put your teen in a better mood after a bad day. And, unlike the past where teens played games in isolation, most teens play games with other players or friends. According to the article in the American Psychologist, more than 70% of gamers play with a friend. This gives your teen a chance to play with friends and socialize even when they are at home.

Has your child ever played a game about mythology or a certain war? These type of games can encourage an interest in learning. Your teen may search the Internet or pick up library books on mythology, or history, or different cultures. It could spark an interest in gaining knowledge about different material in a game. When they go to school and a subject they learned about in their favorite video game comes up, they may be more engaged and interested in learning about the topic.

Strategic video games require a lot of thinking and problem solving. Problem solving skills are important for subjects like Math and Science. According to a long-term study, teens that played strategic video games showed improvement in problem solving and grades the following year.

Researches in numerous studies have found benefits for teens playing video games. According to theOxford University study, "Those who played video games for less than an hour… were associated with the highest levels of sociability and were most likely to say they were satisfied with their lives. They also appeared to have fewer friendship and emotional problems, and reported less hyperactivity than the other groups."

With all this in mind, it is important to note that the benefits of gaming have all been associated with game time of an hour or less. Excessive gaming can lead to addiction, possible aggressive behavior, avoidance of other social activities, as well as physical injuries from repetitive strain injuries. It is reassuring to note that gaming can be beneficial; however, limiting game time to an hour a day is recommended for kids.