4 Benefits of Video Games

As the weather gets colder, parents may notice their teens spending more and more time playing video games during these winter months. Although most of what we hear about the virtual world is negative, there are a few added benefits parents may want to keep in mind before turning the screen off. Continue reading this Parenthetical post from May 2014 to learn more!

For many parents of teens video games are a menace. They are a frequent source of conflict. They are a distraction. And they often expose youth to too much violence. At best, they are something to be tolerated, right? Could there possibly be anything good about video games?

According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project an overwhelming 97% of teens play games on a computer, a game console, or the web.  The good news is that video games may not be entirely bad. In fact, research shows that playing video games may be beneficial to teens in several ways!

1.  Building friendships:  Video games are a social activity for teens (at least some of the time).  Most teens play video games with another person – 65% of teens play with friends in the same room as them and 27% of teens also play online games with other players.  Additionally, teens most often play video games with friends they socialize with offline – at school, in the neighborhood or other face-to-face locations.  Most teens also say they’ve seen another player ask a gaming “bully” to stop their mean or disrespectful behavior.  (Read more in this Pew Internet article.)

2.  Learning how to work with others:  Games with multiple players provide temporary leadership opportunities for kids.  Many games online require players to join a team and collaborate to solve complex problems.  Winning in these games is about the entire team not just a single player.  In online games, teens learn how to relate to other players and organize other people to meet specific goals.  Games that are less action-based (like Second Life) teach long-term planning skills.  (Read more in this report.)

3.  Better eye-hand coordination:  One study found that high school- and college-age gamers performed a virtual surgery task slightly better than medical residents.  These students were better able to use a machine to replicate surgery tasks, such as passing a needle.  While the study authors recommend that a good education is the first key to being a successful surgeon, a history of playing video games may give future surgeons an advantage in navigating objects with robotic surgery tools!  (Watch a video about this research at Popular Science.)

4.  Beating dyslexia:  Video games train the brain’s attention system and some researchers think attention is key to the puzzle of dyslexia.  By playing action video games kids learn to respond quickly to both visual and sound cues, which can increase reading speed and attention skills.  (Read the full story at NPR.)

Perhaps it is worth reconsidering a knee-jerk negative reaction to video games.  Yes, many games are extremely violent and parents should carefully monitor the type of game and length of time that kids play.  However, reasonable video game use isn’t necessarily harmful and may have some benefits.  So parents of teens might want to lighten up on their guilt and move their focus from whether their teen should play at all to when and what they are playing.

What is your experience?  Do you think video games can be positive for teens?


Article by Anne

Anne-Headshot-useAnne is an interim Extension Specialist with Cooperative Extension Family Living Programs at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. She is also a doctoral student in Human Development & Family Studies at the University of Wisconsin – Madison and has a masters degree in Public Health. She is the oldest of three children.