Video games have long been scorned by educators and parents, but the tide is turning, and many experts are now seeing the benefits in supervised gaming sessions for children.
Some games can help children improve their problem-solving skills and their hand to eye coordination, while more sedentary kids have been shown to be getting more exercise by games that require them to move to manipulate the gameplay.
The healthiest approach, as with so many things, is moderation.
Experts agree that time limits should be set on the use of any media for those aged between five and 18 years old. That includes playing video games on any device, be it a smartphone, tablet or dedicated gaming console.
Although children have been playing with console-based games such as PlayStation and Nintendo for decades now, screen-based electronic games have been made more affordable and accessible than ever thanks to computers, smartphones and tablets, and 91% of American kids were playing video games back in 2011. That was before tablets became so ubiquitous.
It is not difficult for kids to find bingo games or other games online that may even be free to play.
While more violent games should probably be left out until children are much older, video games can be good for kids playing under supervision and with moderation.
Why video games are a positive influence
There are a range of benefits that video games can offer children, one of the strongest of which is developing their sense of self.
Children can gain greater self-esteem because of the boost in autonomy, competence and connection that video games can provide. While parents often see video games as a waste of time, they can teach kids valuable life skills such as problem solving, owning their own choices, and controlling their behavior and the goals they set for themselves.
Playing multiplayer games can also help to teach children empathy because of the shared experience in completing the game with others.
Video games can also help to teach children the art of conflict resolution, and the interactive nature of many games can be a big benefit for children who may have difficulties with social interactions in the real world.
Children who struggle with social anxiety can benefit from interactive games because online communication is easier for them, and while interactions in the real world are still of vital importance, online video games can be a great practice venue for developing these skills.
Video games can also provide academic benefits to children, with certain games able to nurture executive functioning skills such as the likes of concentration and planning and organization.
European research suggests that children between six and eleven years of age who play video games for at least five hours per week have greater academic achievement and intellectual functioning. They also experience a reduction in problems with their classmates.
Games can assist children to build their skills in coding, design, logic and math and may be the first point of contact for kids to eventually build careers in computer programming, design and engineering.
Video games have a surprisingly beneficial impact on children and parents should look at allowing their kids controlled and moderate sessions.