Ah, screen time. For many families, particularly those with kids who are homeschooling or distance learning, the carefully-crafted plans for limiting the amount of time spent on digital devices have gone straight out the window. If that’s you, don’t worry: you’re not alone.
Perhaps you’re wondering where this leaves video games. Perhaps you have a child asking you that question—perhaps even right now, at this very moment.
The good news is that video games aren’t all bad. High-quality, age-appropriate programs can even offer developmental benefits for kids.
Developmental Benefits of Video Games
Screen time may get a bad rap, but a 2014 study found that “video games provide youth with immersive and compelling social, cognitive, and emotional experiences. Further, these experiences may have the potential to enhance mental health and well-being in children and adolescents.”
One of the biggest changes in the evolution of video games has been the increasingly social nature of the experience. With so many gamers playing cooperatively or competitively with friends, video games contribute to the development of social skills, especially when players are rewarded for cooperative and helping behaviors.
The same study found that video games positively impact a wide range of cognitive skills, particularly cognitive attention and spatial awareness. Additionally, games of all genres were associated with enhanced problem-solving skills and creativity.
On the most basic level, gaming is play, which makes kids happy. Studies suggest that puzzle-type games that require “minimal interfaces [and] short-term commitments” can improve mood, promote relaxation, and decrease anxiety. Researchers also cite the development of reappraisal skills—the ability to re-evaluate and adjust—to the changing rules as video games level up. This adaptive skill helps kids learn to adapt to changing circumstances and manage emotions like anxiety and frustration.
Video games help kids build motivation incrementally as they advance through levels and earn points or rewards. The best video games continuously adjust the “sweet spot” between challenge and frustration, keeping kids engaged despite failures. This aspect of gaming creates a “persistent, optimistic motivational style” and contributes to the development of a growth mindset.
It’s All About Balance
That’s not to say that the stage is now set for daily video game marathons. As with all things, moderation is key.
The Council on Communications and Media suggests making the most of screen time by reserving the time for high-quality programming. Additionally, consider how you might create boundaries around device use in your family, such as designating mealtimes and family playtimes as device-free zones for kids and adults alike and putting screens away at least an hour before bedtime.
From Player to Creator
Ready to level up? At Camp Galileo Anywhere, kids can evolve from player to programmer as they create their own video games. With curriculum designed for 4th – 5th graders and 6th – 8th graders, campers can realize their creative visions in age-appropriate ways.
Granic, I., Lobel, A., & Engels, R. C. M. E. (2014). The benefits of playing video games. American Psychologist, 69(1), 66–78. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0034857
Council on Communications and Media. (2016). Media and young minds. Pediatrics, 138(5), 1–4. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2016-2591