3 Health & Behavior Benefits of Letting Your Kids Play Video Games

Health Check 66

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

tweens, video games


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nonmember avatar Megan

I think it depends on the kid. My two daughters love video games and play them daily. They fall across the ADD spectrum, one highly inattentive, the other highly hyperactive. My inattentive daughter does great with video games, gives her focus and peace and opens up her creativity, she is the sweetest kindest girl you will meet! As for my hyperactive daughter it has some benefits: and then some.

More video games = more violent behavior from her. Had to ground her for a month from them for 'smacking ' her sister in the face then kicking her into a dresser after having many days of extra video games..... usually she is the sweetest most thoughtful kid around. Until Star Wars hits the game screen.

mamaO... mamaOfthree8912

I would agree to a point about all that, but video games have been causing my step son's grades to fall. So I have the wkend rule til grades approve.

Amauriel Amauriel

There's a ton of study being done on this subject...and  I'm living proof that some kids have no problem.

I was a Nintendo kid, and as long as my grades stayed up I was allowed to play whenever I wanted. My mother wasn't a big fan of her little girl playing games, but she knew that it made me happy and allowed me to relax, and as long as my grades were good, chores were done, and outside still happened, she conceeded to me.

Fast forward 20 years...I still game to release stress, and although I may spend more time these days with Bejeweled rather than Final Fantasy, it's a necessary thing in my life. My family games, and we play together, and I don't know how many times I've told family and friends that "the family that games together stays together". We play board games, we play Nintendo, and we play on the computer, but mostly together.

If anyone wants real information on some of the information out there, check out Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal. She's done a lot of research on the subject, has a lot of hard statistics, and really shows that gamers can be great, well-adjusted people.

Aadensma Aadensma

My personal issue with video games comes from my family. My 4 brothers played video games and that's ALL they did. My mom didn't care, of course, since she was always addicted to gaming. She'd rather them play games than have to worry about them going outside and maybe hurting themselves or running off. She let the video games be the parent. I've never believed video games were bad, ultimately, but there are many other things kids could be doing that would benefit them. My mom has been addicted to online gaming (FF games and WoW) for a good 6 years now. For a long time, she would spend 12-18  hours a day on these games. She couldn't even hold a job because that's all she wanted to do. I was always an outside kid. I played very few video games. If it was warm outside, that's where I was. 2 of my brothers suffer from depression...I could see that being video game related since they wouldn't make friends at school and instead, they would sti downstairs and play games all day.  They are all very smart, but I don't know if it's video game related. I'm an out doorsy person and I hope my son ends up the same way! His gaming time will be very limited...

nonmember avatar John

Well, my kids play and never leave the house. They have been here since 1999.

Rushn311 Rushn311

I agree to an extent too! We have the Kinect so she gets some good exercise when she plays but other times she plays ones that require her to sit....but I won't let her play more than hour.

ceciliam ceciliam

My only video game rule is, no over the top, unnecessary violence. Other than that, my son is really good about limiting himself with video games.

slw123 slw123

We have to have time limits on the video games or it gets out of hand.  So our rules are, no video games until homework is done and if it's nice they have to go outside and play first.  No more playing from dinnertime to bedtime.

MamaB... MamaBear2cubs

Our rules are not bad just make sure they are age appropriate.

MamaB... MamaBear2cubs

Our rules are not bad just make sure they are age appropriate.

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