Children need to learn many skills as they grow up. Teamwork prepares them to be valuable members of the community and the workplace. The ability to problem-solve and think on their feet provides confidence and agility. Making friends teaches them the value of forging relationships.
This might come as a surprise, but video games are one of the best activities for teaching these invaluable skills. The key to capturing the benefits of playing video games is channeling your child’s desire to play toward productive screen time. While your kids are having fun, they won’t realize they are learning skills they’ll use for life.
Cognitive Benefits of Playing Video Games
Why are video games good for you? It comes down to their power to exercise basic mental processes, such as perception, attention, memory and decision-making. Video games offer the brain a good workout. They can change and improve the brain’s performance and structure.
As research tells us, the cognitive benefits of playing video games include:
- Visual and Spatial Improvements: Children who played 50 hours of action video games over 10 to 12 weeks improved their ability to detect contrasts in subtle shades of gray. In another study, researchers found that playing video games improved the competence of the part of the brain responsible for identifying visual and spatial relationships among objects. Video-game playing can even eliminate “lazy eye,” the children’s condition in which one eye becomes nonfunctional. By covering the healthy eye and playing with only the weaker eye, players achieved normal or near-normal functioning, reaching 20/20 vision or better.
- Improved Attention Span: Video gamers are better at finding a target quickly in a field of distractions, which helps make them better, safer drivers. They can also keep track of a set of objects moving around amid identical objects, like that old “shell game” of picking the hat that hides a walnut. Video games for kids also help players be less impulsive. And because games sharpen vision, they can help children overcome dyslexia — more effectively than training programs designed specially to treat dyslexia.
- Improved Mental Flexibility: Multiple studies have shown that playing video games helps players learn to switch rapidly and accurately between tasks that have conflicting demands. Gamers also perform better on the multi-attribute task battery test of piloting an aircraft, which demands multiple functions at once, including keeping a target centered on a screen, monitoring fuel levels, responding to instrument-panel signals, and listening and responding to radio communications.
Social Benefits of Playing Video Games
Today’s video games are much more complex, creative and social than games of the past. With their increased sophistication, there are a variety of social benefits of playing video games. Multiplayer online games are especially beneficial.
Here’s what researchers have to say.
- Games Encourage Cooperative Play: Think about the video games your children play. Often, there are multiple players involved, all driving toward a shared goal. This kind of teamwork has been shown to increase the likelihood that players will be cooperative or helpful with other people when they’re not playing video games. In one study, higher-scoring players were more extraverted, agreeable, open and conscientious — all traits that make a person a valuable teammate in the workplace.
- Students Build Social Bonds Over Video Games: Children who play video games five hours or more a week have higher intellectual functioning, do better in school, have stronger peer relationships and have fewer mental difficulties than their non-playing peers. Social ties are strengthened because children are playing together, often in the same room or at a shared computer. Even when they’re not playing, games and gaming strategies give children something to talk about and plan.
Action Games Can Improve Fine Motor Skills and Hand-Eye Coordination
Hand-eye coordination isn’t just for athletes. Much of what we do every day, whether it’s riding a bike, brushing your hair or pouring a glass of milk, requires hand-eye coordination. At home, children need hand-eye coordination to fold their clothes and put away their toys. At school, hand-eye coordination is crucial to writing and working at a computer. Good hand-eye coordination comes from development of the fine motor skills that make our hands and fingers responsive to the demands we place on them.
In a study of hand-eye coordination, gamers and nongamers were asked to coordinate their hand movements with a dot they could see on a screen, moving in a complicated but repetitive pattern. At first everyone did well, but as the experiment continued gamers far outpaced nongamers. The researchers concluded that gamers are better at learning new fine motor skills that support hand-eye coordination.
Video Games Require Balance to Have Benefits
As in everything, moderation matters when it comes to getting benefits from video gaming. You’re probably aware of the challenges, such as obesity, anxiety and addiction, associated with too much screen time. Researchers are saying many fears have become overblown, but it’s still important to maintain a balance. Parents and students can reduce the negative impacts of video gaming, and reap the benefits, by paying attention to these commonsense time limits and safety practices.
- Manage Screen Time: Screen time can include watching TV and sitting at a computer, but for today’s children playing video games accounts for a great deal of their weekly screen time. Unfortunately, all that sedentary activity keeps kids from getting the exercise that builds healthy bodies and minds. Too much screen time can keep kids from getting enough sleep, and it can lead to obesity. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children ages 2 to 5 have one hour of quality programming per day, while parents of older kids should set reasonable limits. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention adds that children should have one hour of physical activity — away from the screen — every day.
- Practice Cyber Safety: Although technology has delivered new worlds of learning to children, it also puts them at risk from those who would exploit them. Children should learn cyber safety to keep the door closed to predators who use social media and video games for access. Parents should teach children it’s OK to alert them if they see anything that makes them uncomfortable. They can use VPNs, or virtual private networks, to block intruders. It’s also important to teach children never to talk to strangers online, just as they wouldn’t open the door to people they don’t know. Children should learn to avoid using public Wi-Fi, where eavesdroppers can “listen in” on their conversations and activities.
Gaming Opportunities at Commonwealth Charter Academy
CCA leverages technological innovation to deliver new and exciting ways to learn. That includes choices in clubs that are tuned in to the interests of today’s children, who live in a digital world. Among them, the CCA Gaming & Computer Club taps into the passion that kids have for games. Students meet in tournaments, which helps them make friends, while they learn to play games in moderation. In the end, they get all the social, mental and physical benefits of gaming, while learning to incorporate games into a lifestyle balanced with academics, physical activity, family and friendships.
The Gaming & Computer Club is just one extracurricular program that allows CCA students to explore their interests and make friends. Children get excited about school when they pursue their passions on their own, and CCA’s array of clubs invites them to explore. Through clubs, CCA students learn new skills, hone their talents in areas that lead to college and careers, and meet students from around the state who share their passions. CCA’s unique clubs, extracurricular activities and educational opportunities delve into all the areas where a child wants to learn more. Just imagine the fun they can have while they explore art, theater, broadcasting, books, chess, coding and computers, the environment or government.
All those clubs are woven into CCA’s philosophy of learning that nurtures the whole child. Personalized education plans are crafted to address each child’s strengths, interests, goals and challenges. By the time they graduate, they are career-ready and equipped to function in a digital, global world, whether they choose college, career training, the workforce or the military. Learn more about the unique opportunities we offer to make learning exciting and fun for CCA students. Enroll today!