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game controllerIt never fails. You tell a certain kind of mom in the school drop-off line that your kid can't get enough of this one new video game, and they give you a look that turns you cold. They don't say it, but you know they're thinking, "You are a horrible mother! Don't you know that video games turn kids into violent morons?" Don't worry, you're a good mom -- she's wrong.

In fact, the more scientists -- not sanctimommies -- look at these things, it turns out there are plenty of bona fide health and behavior benefits for our kids. So next time you get the raised eyebrow from another mom who sees your kid walking around with a game console in hand, here's what you tell her:

1. Video Games Make Kids Smart: Yes, I'm for real. Neuroscientists were able to determine that people who play action-based video and computer games make decisions 25 percent faster than their peers. And they're good decisions -- there is no decrease in accuracy for the speed. In fact, if someone is really good at gaming, they have been found to make decisions AND act on them four times faster than regular Joes and Janes. Bring on the brain games!

2. Video Games Can Help Fight Childhood Obesity: There has been a lot of debate over the years about fitness games and whether they actually do anything for you, but the latest news is good. If they play a fitness game, scientists say kids could on average burn between 7 and 14 pounds of fat a year, just by playing these more active video games (instead of sitting around watching TV). Experts caution these games should be combined with regular exercise away from the machines, but when it's raining or cold outside and you can't send them out to play, there's ample evidence that you shouldn't feel guilty for setting them up with a workout game. And maybe getting in on it wouldn't hurt?

3. Video Games Can Cheer Us Up: So you've heard that gaming will make your kid a depressed recluse? Not necessarily. Casual gaming -- using video games as a part of a well-rounded slate of activities -- has actually been proven to reduce depression and anxiety symptoms and give an all-around mood boost. Hey, kids can use stress relief too, right?

All this certainly makes me feel better about letting my kid sit with her game console in the backseat of the car, how about you? What are your video game rules?

 

Image via aditza121/Flickr