New research on gaming nullifies the concerns parents have heard for years: that children who play video games for long periods of time or who favor particular genres may experience negative effects on their cognitive function.
According to Jie Zhang, associate professor of curriculum and instruction at the University of Houston College of Education and a member of the research team, “Our investigations did not find any such linkages, regardless of how long the children played and what kinds of games they chose.”
Researchers used data from 160 diverse adolescents, 70% of whom came from lower-income households, to draw their conclusions. This age group has received less attention from earlier studies. The participating students said that they spent an average of 2.5 hours each day playing video games, with the most avid players clocking up to 4.5 hours every day.
The team sought to determine whether the students’ participation in video games was related to how well they did on the standardized Cognitive Ability Test 7, or CogAT, which assesses verbal, numerical, and nonverbal/spatial abilities. In contrast to earlier research efforts that relied on teacher-reported grades or self-reported learning assessments, CogAT was chosen as a standard measure.
Overall, neither the amount of time spent playing a game nor the genre preference exhibited a meaningful relationship with the CogAT scores. Contrary to expectations, this finding demonstrates that there is no clear correlation between playing video games and cognitive function, according to May Jadalla, professor in the Illinois State University School of Teaching and Learning and the study’s lead author.
Gaming Enhanced Brain Activity, Decision-Making Skill
But the investigation also uncovered another aspect of the problem. Despite the marketing claims made for the games, several game genres that are said to aid in children’s development of strong cognitive abilities also failed to produce any discernible results.
According to C. Shawn Green, professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, “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.”
Does this mean the world can play on? Maybe not
The experts also warn that, in a phenomenon psychologists call “displacement,” playing video games moves the most avid gamers’ attention away from other, more productive activities—specifically, homework. However, even in those instances, the variations in the individuals’ CogAT scores compared to those of their peers were minimal.
According to the study’s findings, cognitive decline in youngsters who enjoy playing video games is probably not a problem until fifth grade. It should be acceptable to play video games in moderation, which is wonderful news for the kids. “Simply watch out for obsessive behavior,” advised Zhang.
These results indicate that video game playing potentially enhances several of the subprocesses for sensation, perception and mapping to action to improve decision-making skills,” the authors wrote. “These findings begin to illuminate how video game playing alters the brain in order to improve task performance and their potential implications for increasing task-specific activity.
“It’s difficult enough to find a point of agreement between parents and young children when it comes to computer games.” At least now we know that the key to child growth is finding a balance, so we don’t need to worry too much about video games.