New Study Finds That Video Games Can Actually Help Boost Children’s Intelligence
For years, people have been arguing about how much time is safe for children to spend on their gadgets and screens, and how it may or may not affect their overall wellbeing. Some experts share that too much screentime can lead to lower grades, less reading, aggressive behaviors and thoughts, poor social skills, and tons of other adverse side effects.
But researchers in Sweden from the Karolinska Institute and Vrije University in Amsterdam have been studying how the screen habits of children in the United States actually correlates to their intelligence, as well as how it develops over time.
What the study discovered is that kids who spend an “above-average time” playing video games actually saw an increase in their intelligence more than the average, whereas watching TV or social media had neither a negative or a positive effect.
There were over 9,000 girls and boys who participated in the study in the US. When the children were at age nine or 10, the children were made to do a battery of psychological tests in order to see their general cognitive abilities, or in other words, intelligence. The children and their parents were also questioned about how much time the kids spent watching TV or videos, scrolling through social media, or playing video games.
During a follow-up two years after the study first began, over 5,000 of the child participants were asked to do repeat psychological tests. This allowed the researchers to study how the kids’ performances on the tests varied from their first testing to the new ones, while being able to control for individual differences in the first test as well. They were also able to control for genetic differences that could affect intelligence and differences which could possibly be related to the parents’ income and educational background.
They found that the average child in the study ‘spent 2.5 hours a day watching TV, half an hour on social media and 1 hour playing video games.’
The results also showed that the kids who played more games than the average child increased their intelligence ‘between the two measurements by approximately 2.5 IQ points more than the average.’ Moreover, no significant effect – either in the positive or negative – was observed of TV-watching or social media.
Professor of cognitive neuroscience at the Department of Neuroscience at the Karolinska Institute, Torkel Klingberg, “We didn’t examine the effects of screen behavior on physical activity, sleep, wellbeing or school performance, so we can’t say anything about that.”
He added, “But our results support the claim that screen time generally doesn’t impair children’s cognitive abilities, and that playing video games can actually help boost intelligence. This is consistent with several experimental studies of video-game playing.”
The Intelligence Is Not Constant
Although the results happen to be in line with other recent research that intelligence is not necessarily a constant, the quality is also influenced by other environmental factors.
Klingberg adds, “We’ll now be studying the effects of other factors and how the cognitive effects relate to childhood brain development.”
Like most studies, there are also limitations. One main limitation to this study, which was published in the Scientific Reports journal, is that it only looked at U.S. children while also not differentiating between the different types of video games, making the results difficult to transfer to kids in other countries using other gaming habits. Moreover, the accuracy of habits and screen time wasn’t confirmed considering they were self-reported by the families and not actually documented by the research team.