Adolescent Research: Moderate Video Gameplay Makes Kids Smarter

Over the years we’ve heard about the probable role of video gameplay in leading to negative outcomes such as obesity and the dumbing down of today’s teenagers. We’ve read of kids addicted to video games, locking themselves in dark bedrooms playing hours upon hours at a time. While that type of scenario is surely not healthy for kids, recent research finds that moderate video gameplay can actually help make your teenager smarter.

A study by researchers at Princeton University and published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reported that playing video games five hours a week may improve perceptual processing in teens’ brains.

The researchers found that playing mainstream video games improved certain types of learning. “A key takeaway from this study is that playing action video games improves not just the skills taught in the game, but learning capabilities more generally,” said Vikranth Rao Bejjanki, a postdoctoral researcher at Princeton and one of the study’s co-authors.

What can parents do?
1. Want smarter kids? Let them play video games in moderation. Bingeing on marathon video game sessions isn’t what is being talked about here. According to the researchers, just five hours of gameplay per week was enough for players to gain benefits in brain processing.

2. The types of video games played did not seem to make a difference. Mainstream action video games produced similar results on brain processing.

3. Parents should still work alongside their kids to learn and use discernment on what video games you allow to be played in your home. For example, another recent study showed that playing violent video games increased aggressive thoughts and behaviors, and inhibited teens’ abilities to make moral judgments. Consult resources like the Common Sense Media website for reviews on video game titles.

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Jim Liebelt

Jim is Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for HomeWord. Jim has 40 years of experience as a youth and family ministry specialist, having served over the years as a pastor, author, editor, consultant, mentor, trainer, college instructor, and speaker. Jim’s HomeWord Culture Blog also appears on Jim and his wife Jenny live in Quincy, MA.

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