Videogames are now so popular that the number of players worldwide topped 3 billion last year! The boom goes far beyond gaming consoles and the most recognized gaming platforms, such as PlayStation, Xbox or Nintendo, as it reaches across PCs and right into our pockets via our smartphones.
From casual gaming to the rise of esports and professional gaming, it’s clear that gaming is here to stay. While the sedentary time spent by kids in front of screens as a result remains a major concern for parents, there are also very real benefits to gaming.
How playing videogames helps kids learn valuable skills
1. Social skills
As games went online, interaction between players has reached new levels! While just a few years ago, kids would go to school excited to talk about their collections or sporting achievements, now they are playing videogames together with friends and people from all over the world. In game chat features allow for real social interaction, which builds communication and collaboration skills, as well as teaching how to work effectively in a group. And while social relations used to be limited to the school campus, now kids can talk to people from all over the world, discovering new realities outside their bubbles, taking their first steps in learning new languages or becoming aware of different cultural backgrounds.
Many studies that examined people’s mood and stress noted significant improvements from playing video games, compared to taking a passive break, surfing the web, or performing a relaxation activity, according to the peer-reviewed Games for Health Journal. Moreover, videogames can give a sense of accomplishment. Kids can learn the benefits of accomplishing tasks, the importance of organization and planning, and how learning new skills can lead them to better results and rewards. Parents and caretakers can use gaming as an analogy for how to learn other subjects and to show why cumulative knowledge builds confidence and prepares a person for the future.
3. Cognitive skills
It’s not out of nowhere that kids seem to get glued to the screen when playing a game. That’s because games often require extreme focus, split-second reactions and fast decision-making, allowing them to detect and better react to changes in their environment. At the same time, having to remember images, characters and secret passages, as well as to navigate maps, helps improve memory and attention to detail. Similarly, there is evidence that some games, such as Minecraft, are great for inducing creativity.
4. Problem-solving skills
Games are a great way to improve problem-solving abilities and learn how to use logic and creativity to come up with the necessary solutions required to progress to the next levels. For one, gaming can help kids learn how to break problems down into smaller pieces and then work on one piece at a time. This can be a great way to help kids develop an understanding of how complex problems can be managed, as well as how to identify situational similarities and to apply previous solutions to solve new problems – and become accomplished “computational thinkers” in the process.
5. Reasoning skills
Understanding how to read data, how different tools work and how to read different metrics are all valuable skills that help kids understand the world around them. In today’s data-drenched society, learning how to make sense of the wealth of information around us, foster meaningful connections, apply sound judgments and build compelling arguments will stand your children in good stead throughout their lives. Indeed, astute critical thinking is a fundamental life skill and together with the other skills and aptitudes listed above will put them on track to becoming confident and responsible adults. They’ll thank you later.
Kids should game only while under adult supervision
While these are great skills to learn, they are not sufficient to warrant giving kids the green light to play whenever and whatever they want. There are a few things parents and guardians should keep in mind — for example, whether a specific game is age appropriate and, regardless of a kid’s age, how gaming is affecting his or her school performance, sleep, off-screen use of time, and behavior.
Here are a few rules to that can help you answer these questions:
- When buying your kid a game, check the PG rating (or equivalent).
- Avoid games with in-app purchases, as these abuse marketing gimmicks and allow players to bypass learning skills based on game progressions by simply buying their way to more advanced levels.
- While you can give your kids some privacy as they grow from teenagers into young adults, enforce playing time only in the common areas of your house. This way, you’ll be able to oversee their behavior. Remember not to check on them persistently, however – instead, aim to create trust-based relations and allow yourself to learn and even play the same games.
- Agree in advance on playing times and duration. This way, kids can also learn how to plan their time as they want. And since games are also social activities, they’ll be able to catch up with friends.
- Turn off game notifications when it is not play time and set up parental controls on consoles such as PlayStation, Xbox or Nintendo Switch, as well on your kids’ phones.
- Talk about how to stay safe online, what is cyberbullying, the kinds of scams they might encounter and that not everyone they meet online is as kind-hearted as they expect.
Gaming isn’t just for kids!
The benefits and advice around gaming discussed in this post apply not just to kids, but also to adults. Gaming is not just a kid’s thing anymore, as many millennials have grown up without ever losing the sense of fun and excitement they get from spending some good time in gameplay. In fact, playing action video games for a short period of time can improve spatial vision and visual attention in some visually-impaired adults, such as those with so-called “lazy eye”, and doctors are even playing before surgeries to enhance their techniques.
So, no matter your age, choose an age-appropriate game, and enjoy!