The news is full of stories about the effects of video games on children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, video games are responsible for an increase in childhood obesity. Science Daily reports that video games increase anxiety and stress levels and violent behavior. However, not all the effects are negative. Children can experience some positive benefits from a moderate amount of time playing either violent or non-violent video games.
Video games force kids to think quickly. In particular, action games encourage players to make fast decisions using evidence gathered throughout the game, according to a study explained on the Daily Tech website. Kids who play video games are given unusual problems to solve, many of which they must solve very quickly. This process improves critical-thinking skills and can teach kids the value of trying several different solutions to a problem, a skill that will benefit them for life. Additionally, children who are able to pay attention to a sequence of events in a video game are more likely to apply this skill to their real lives.
Video games are often blamed for poor social skills in children. However, according to Psych Central, the opposite may be true, since video games often allow players from around the world to work together to solve problems or complete tasks. This is especially true in children with autism. Playing video games can teach children with autism or an autism spectrum disorder how to respond to visual and verbal queues, in turn improving their social responses. Video games are often highly motivating for children with autism, and these games offer opportunities for successful learning and a stress-free opportunity to improve skills such as planning, organization and self-monitoring. Reinforcement of desired behaviors is given without the need for direct human interaction, which can be stressful for kids with autism.
Not all video games are mindless. According to John L. Sherry, assistant professor at Michigan State University, educators are increasingly using educational games in the classroom as a motivational tool. The right video games help children master everything from basic grammar to complex math without the drudgery of old-school flash cards. Many games require kids to anticipate movements and, in the case of three-dimensional video games, require players to manipulate objects through a three-dimensional place, improving spacial-relationship skills.
Children don't necessarily need to play sports to improve their hand-eye coordination. At Deakin University in Australia, health researchers found that preschoolers who play interactive video games, such as Wii, have better motor skills than kids who do not play games. The study found that children who played those games were better at skills such as kicking, catching or throwing a ball.
For children who are not into football or other aggressive sports, video games may act as a release of pent-up aggression and frustration. Venting frustration or anger in a game may help diffuse stress. It also gives introverted kids a chance to exert a dominant behavior or "try on" a personality they do not use in their everyday lives. Additionally, both violent and non-violent games can have a relaxing, almost meditating effect on children.