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Video Games & Kids: The Benefits, the Downsides, and What Parents Should Really Be Concerned About

Many parents today are concerned about their child(ren)’s video game use because this technology is not only relatively new but it continues to change. It’s no wonder that many parents are left concerned and confused.

Unfortunately, there is no straight answer to our video game concerns. The research suggests there are many benefits to playing video games, but also some potential downsides. Additionally, excessive or addictive video game playing is likely not causing mental/emotional/social health problems, but rather is the result of such health problems.

We'll first review the positives and negatives of video game playing and the signs of excessive or addictive video game playing, and then we we'll take a look at the five factors likely underlying excessive or addictive gaming.

The benefits of gaming

Improving cognition. Research studies suggest that gaming can improve attention, spatial reasoning, and problem solving. The counter-intuitive part of these findings is that they were done on first-person shooter games, and the violence of the games had no detectable negative effects. Additionally, video game playing doesn’t appear to negatively affect academic performance.

Increasing persistence. A lot of research has shown that persistence is key to educational success. Fortunately, video games are perfectly designed to provide incremental challenges that can be overcome with practice and repeated attempts. This is basically the recipe for persistence. Sure enough, studies like this show that gaming increases persistence.

Generating positive emotions. We can all use a little mood booster, right? Research shows that casual video games like “Angry Birds” or “Bejeweled” can reduce anxiety and depression symptoms while increasing positive emotions.  If the video game is physically active then the positive mood boost can be even greater.

Enhancing social skills. Most gaming among kids today is social in nature. Over 80% of gaming is done with at least one other friend in person or online. Studies have shown that gaming with others increases cooperation and helping behaviors.

The downsides to gaming

Increased aggression. The evidence on this is mixed. Some researchers have reviewed all the studies on violent video games (VGVs) and aggression and found that yes, VGVs do increase aggression in adolescents. Other researchers have reviewed the same studies and found that no, VGVs do not increase aggression. Still other researchers have reviewed these reviews (ha!) and found that when everything is properly analyzed, VGVs probably increase aggression but the effect is quite small.

Toxic gaming communities and cyberbullying. Between 11% and 25% of adolescents report being the victim of cyberbullying, but some players may ignore or rationalize bullying and thus not report it. Kids who’ve been cyberbullied are more likely to report being in poor health and consider suicide.

Avoidance. Ignoring problems of loneliness, sadness, frustration, and anger is called avoidant coping, and it leads to these problems only getting worse. Gaming addiction is connected to this type of avoidance, but it's unknown if gaming is a cause or an effect of avoidance.

The Real Issues

Social relationships. Adolescents with more friends and stronger friendships have better physical health and higher life satisfaction. When their social relationships suffer, adolescents are more likely to withdraw into video games and other forms of media.

Mental health. Research like this and this suggest that adolescents who avoid acknowledging and talking about mental health problems like depression and anxiety are more likely to obsessively game. Gaming can become a way to cope with mental health problems, rather than a cause of mental health problems.

Our Advice

Know that there are many adolescents and young adults who play video games and live healthy, normal lives. This means that our focus as parents should be on addressing social issues, mental health concerns, relationship problems, academics, and the source of the desire to escape. If your child is thriving in these areas, then you can relax on their gaming. But if these are problems, then successfully managing them will likely lead to a decrease in the time your child spends gaming.

Video Games & Kids: The Benefits, the Downsides, and What Parents Should Really Be Concerned About

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Video Games & Kids: The Benefits, the Downsides, and What Parents Should Really Be Concerned About

Concerns about the amount of time kids spend playing video games are normal, but research suggests that video games have many benefits and only a few downsides so long as kids are thriving socially, mentally, and emotionally.

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Many parents today are concerned about their child(ren)’s video game use because this technology is not only relatively new but it continues to change. It’s no wonder that many parents are left concerned and confused.

Unfortunately, there is no straight answer to our video game concerns. The research suggests there are many benefits to playing video games, but also some potential downsides. Additionally, excessive or addictive video game playing is likely not causing mental/emotional/social health problems, but rather is the result of such health problems.

We'll first review the positives and negatives of video game playing and the signs of excessive or addictive video game playing, and then we we'll take a look at the five factors likely underlying excessive or addictive gaming.

The benefits of gaming

Improving cognition. Research studies suggest that gaming can improve attention, spatial reasoning, and problem solving. The counter-intuitive part of these findings is that they were done on first-person shooter games, and the violence of the games had no detectable negative effects. Additionally, video game playing doesn’t appear to negatively affect academic performance.

Increasing persistence. A lot of research has shown that persistence is key to educational success. Fortunately, video games are perfectly designed to provide incremental challenges that can be overcome with practice and repeated attempts. This is basically the recipe for persistence. Sure enough, studies like this show that gaming increases persistence.

Generating positive emotions. We can all use a little mood booster, right? Research shows that casual video games like “Angry Birds” or “Bejeweled” can reduce anxiety and depression symptoms while increasing positive emotions.  If the video game is physically active then the positive mood boost can be even greater.

Enhancing social skills. Most gaming among kids today is social in nature. Over 80% of gaming is done with at least one other friend in person or online. Studies have shown that gaming with others increases cooperation and helping behaviors.

The downsides to gaming

Increased aggression. The evidence on this is mixed. Some researchers have reviewed all the studies on violent video games (VGVs) and aggression and found that yes, VGVs do increase aggression in adolescents. Other researchers have reviewed the same studies and found that no, VGVs do not increase aggression. Still other researchers have reviewed these reviews (ha!) and found that when everything is properly analyzed, VGVs probably increase aggression but the effect is quite small.

Toxic gaming communities and cyberbullying. Between 11% and 25% of adolescents report being the victim of cyberbullying, but some players may ignore or rationalize bullying and thus not report it. Kids who’ve been cyberbullied are more likely to report being in poor health and consider suicide.

Avoidance. Ignoring problems of loneliness, sadness, frustration, and anger is called avoidant coping, and it leads to these problems only getting worse. Gaming addiction is connected to this type of avoidance, but it's unknown if gaming is a cause or an effect of avoidance.

The Real Issues

Social relationships. Adolescents with more friends and stronger friendships have better physical health and higher life satisfaction. When their social relationships suffer, adolescents are more likely to withdraw into video games and other forms of media.

Mental health. Research like this and this suggest that adolescents who avoid acknowledging and talking about mental health problems like depression and anxiety are more likely to obsessively game. Gaming can become a way to cope with mental health problems, rather than a cause of mental health problems.

Our Advice

Know that there are many adolescents and young adults who play video games and live healthy, normal lives. This means that our focus as parents should be on addressing social issues, mental health concerns, relationship problems, academics, and the source of the desire to escape. If your child is thriving in these areas, then you can relax on their gaming. But if these are problems, then successfully managing them will likely lead to a decrease in the time your child spends gaming.

Many parents today are concerned about their child(ren)’s video game use because this technology is not only relatively new but it continues to change. It’s no wonder that many parents are left concerned and confused.

Unfortunately, there is no straight answer to our video game concerns. The research suggests there are many benefits to playing video games, but also some potential downsides. Additionally, excessive or addictive video game playing is likely not causing mental/emotional/social health problems, but rather is the result of such health problems.

We'll first review the positives and negatives of video game playing and the signs of excessive or addictive video game playing, and then we we'll take a look at the five factors likely underlying excessive or addictive gaming.

The benefits of gaming

Improving cognition. Research studies suggest that gaming can improve attention, spatial reasoning, and problem solving. The counter-intuitive part of these findings is that they were done on first-person shooter games, and the violence of the games had no detectable negative effects. Additionally, video game playing doesn’t appear to negatively affect academic performance.

Increasing persistence. A lot of research has shown that persistence is key to educational success. Fortunately, video games are perfectly designed to provide incremental challenges that can be overcome with practice and repeated attempts. This is basically the recipe for persistence. Sure enough, studies like this show that gaming increases persistence.

Generating positive emotions. We can all use a little mood booster, right? Research shows that casual video games like “Angry Birds” or “Bejeweled” can reduce anxiety and depression symptoms while increasing positive emotions.  If the video game is physically active then the positive mood boost can be even greater.

Enhancing social skills. Most gaming among kids today is social in nature. Over 80% of gaming is done with at least one other friend in person or online. Studies have shown that gaming with others increases cooperation and helping behaviors.

The downsides to gaming

Increased aggression. The evidence on this is mixed. Some researchers have reviewed all the studies on violent video games (VGVs) and aggression and found that yes, VGVs do increase aggression in adolescents. Other researchers have reviewed the same studies and found that no, VGVs do not increase aggression. Still other researchers have reviewed these reviews (ha!) and found that when everything is properly analyzed, VGVs probably increase aggression but the effect is quite small.

Toxic gaming communities and cyberbullying. Between 11% and 25% of adolescents report being the victim of cyberbullying, but some players may ignore or rationalize bullying and thus not report it. Kids who’ve been cyberbullied are more likely to report being in poor health and consider suicide.

Avoidance. Ignoring problems of loneliness, sadness, frustration, and anger is called avoidant coping, and it leads to these problems only getting worse. Gaming addiction is connected to this type of avoidance, but it's unknown if gaming is a cause or an effect of avoidance.

The Real Issues

Social relationships. Adolescents with more friends and stronger friendships have better physical health and higher life satisfaction. When their social relationships suffer, adolescents are more likely to withdraw into video games and other forms of media.

Mental health. Research like this and this suggest that adolescents who avoid acknowledging and talking about mental health problems like depression and anxiety are more likely to obsessively game. Gaming can become a way to cope with mental health problems, rather than a cause of mental health problems.

Our Advice

Know that there are many adolescents and young adults who play video games and live healthy, normal lives. This means that our focus as parents should be on addressing social issues, mental health concerns, relationship problems, academics, and the source of the desire to escape. If your child is thriving in these areas, then you can relax on their gaming. But if these are problems, then successfully managing them will likely lead to a decrease in the time your child spends gaming.

Many parents today are concerned about their child(ren)’s video game use because this technology is not only relatively new but it continues to change. It’s no wonder that many parents are left concerned and confused.

Unfortunately, there is no straight answer to our video game concerns. The research suggests there are many benefits to playing video games, but also some potential downsides. Additionally, excessive or addictive video game playing is likely not causing mental/emotional/social health problems, but rather is the result of such health problems.

We'll first review the positives and negatives of video game playing and the signs of excessive or addictive video game playing, and then we we'll take a look at the five factors likely underlying excessive or addictive gaming.

The benefits of gaming

Improving cognition. Research studies suggest that gaming can improve attention, spatial reasoning, and problem solving. The counter-intuitive part of these findings is that they were done on first-person shooter games, and the violence of the games had no detectable negative effects. Additionally, video game playing doesn’t appear to negatively affect academic performance.

Increasing persistence. A lot of research has shown that persistence is key to educational success. Fortunately, video games are perfectly designed to provide incremental challenges that can be overcome with practice and repeated attempts. This is basically the recipe for persistence. Sure enough, studies like this show that gaming increases persistence.

Generating positive emotions. We can all use a little mood booster, right? Research shows that casual video games like “Angry Birds” or “Bejeweled” can reduce anxiety and depression symptoms while increasing positive emotions.  If the video game is physically active then the positive mood boost can be even greater.

Enhancing social skills. Most gaming among kids today is social in nature. Over 80% of gaming is done with at least one other friend in person or online. Studies have shown that gaming with others increases cooperation and helping behaviors.

The downsides to gaming

Increased aggression. The evidence on this is mixed. Some researchers have reviewed all the studies on violent video games (VGVs) and aggression and found that yes, VGVs do increase aggression in adolescents. Other researchers have reviewed the same studies and found that no, VGVs do not increase aggression. Still other researchers have reviewed these reviews (ha!) and found that when everything is properly analyzed, VGVs probably increase aggression but the effect is quite small.

Toxic gaming communities and cyberbullying. Between 11% and 25% of adolescents report being the victim of cyberbullying, but some players may ignore or rationalize bullying and thus not report it. Kids who’ve been cyberbullied are more likely to report being in poor health and consider suicide.

Avoidance. Ignoring problems of loneliness, sadness, frustration, and anger is called avoidant coping, and it leads to these problems only getting worse. Gaming addiction is connected to this type of avoidance, but it's unknown if gaming is a cause or an effect of avoidance.

The Real Issues

Social relationships. Adolescents with more friends and stronger friendships have better physical health and higher life satisfaction. When their social relationships suffer, adolescents are more likely to withdraw into video games and other forms of media.

Mental health. Research like this and this suggest that adolescents who avoid acknowledging and talking about mental health problems like depression and anxiety are more likely to obsessively game. Gaming can become a way to cope with mental health problems, rather than a cause of mental health problems.

Our Advice

Know that there are many adolescents and young adults who play video games and live healthy, normal lives. This means that our focus as parents should be on addressing social issues, mental health concerns, relationship problems, academics, and the source of the desire to escape. If your child is thriving in these areas, then you can relax on their gaming. But if these are problems, then successfully managing them will likely lead to a decrease in the time your child spends gaming.

Enjoying this article? Subscribe to the Yes Collective for more expert emotional wellness just for parents.

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