Video games are not harmful to children’s brains, according to a new study. But the research also found that video games designed to help children develop healthy brain skills don’t actually work either.
A group of researchers at the University of Houston have found that spending 4.5 hours a day playing video games has no impact on children’s brain functions, despite decade-long fears from parents. Experts did warn that excessive gaming could take away time from homework, but even that had little to no impact on brain development versus their peers.
Professor Jie Zhang, who works on curriculum and instruction at University of Houston’s College of Education, said the study revealed no links between what video games were played, how long they were played for, and how well children performed on cognitive tests.
Zhang said: “Our studies turned up no such links, regardless of how long the children played and what types of games they chose. The study results show parents probably don’t have to worry so much about cognitive setbacks among video game-loving children, up to fifth grade (UK Year 6).
“Reasonable amounts of video gaming should be okay, which will be delightful news for the kids. Just keep an eye out for obsessive behaviour. When it comes to video games, finding common ground between parents and young kids is tricky enough. At least now we understand that finding balance in childhood development is the key, and there’s no need for us to over-worry about video gaming.”
The study, published in the Journal of Media Psychology, examined gaming habits of 160 diverse urban public-school preteen students, an age group that until now have been understudied, of which 70 percent were from lower income households. The students reported spending on average 2.5 hours a day playing video games, with some playing for up to 4.5 hours.
The researchers looked for a link between gaming and how the children performed on a standardised Cognitive Ability Test 7 (CogAT). The test looked at verbal, quantitative, and non-verbal or spatial skills.
Principal investigator Professor May Jadalla, from the School of Teaching and Learning at Illinois State University, said: “Overall, neither duration of play nor choice of video game genres had significant correlations with the CogAT measures. That result shows no direct linkage between video game playing and cognitive performance, despite what had been assumed.”
The study showed that the difference in CogAT scores between kids playing video games over doing their homework and those who didn’t was minimal. Professor Shawn Green, from the Department of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said: “The current study found results that are consistent with previous research showing that types of gameplay that seem to augment cognitive functions in young adults don’t have the same impact in much younger children.”