Is It Time for Parents to Rethink Gaming?

a father and son playing video games

When it comes to video games, most of the headlines tout all the potential harm they might cause children. As a result, parents worry about their children becoming addicted to these games as their screen time increases. Other are concerned that video game violence may trigger aggressive behaviors. And some suggest video games lead to social isolation and depression. While any of these might result from excessive video game use, there are many positive effects of gaming as well. In fact, many parenting and psychology experts believe the benefits of gaming far exceed the potential harms they might cause.

As new evidence surfaces, it is becoming increasingly evident that there are numerous benefits of gaming. It is now well-recognized that video games can enhance computer skills and improve hand-eye coordination. But at the same time, the positive effects of gaming extend well beyond these basic advantages. Gaming done in moderation and with the right supervision can actually help children develop an array of skills. And these skills help them excel not only in school but in life as well. Based on these insights, parents might be well-served to explore how gaming might be an asset to their kid’s development.

Known Benefits of Gaming for Kids

According to recent statistics, roughly 95 percent of all children routinely play video games. In addition, nearly three-quarters report playing video games with friends remotely. In the past, these figures were cause for concern, assuming such behaviors were certain to be detriment. But today, evidence suggests quite the opposite with many positive effects of gaming now recognized. The following represents several major benefits of gaming that are worth appreciating.

  • Improved Sense of Self – One of the positive effects of gaming involves personal development in children. A number of video games encourage autonomy and independence. Ultimately, this requires children to become self-reliant, which in turn builds self-confidence and self-esteem. Video games also forces children to own their own choices based on their consequences. This is one of the often-unrecognized benefits of gaming that many parents fail to appreciate. From a mental wellness perspective, gaming could be used as a powerful tool to build resilience. (Dive deeper into the importance of building mental resilience in this Project Bold Life story!)
  • Better Problem-Solving Skills – Nearly all video games require children to identify problems and decide how best to succeed. Through trial and error, they therefore can develop better problem-solving skills that can be used in all areas of their life. At the same time, there are additional benefits of gaming related to planning and organizational skills. These positive effects of gaming can also be applied in other non-gaming activities. Many educators have noted that children use these same abilities in other subject areas once learned.
  • Enhanced Social Skills – One of the most powerful benefits of gaming for kids relates to the development of social skills. This is particularly true for those with social anxiety. Multiplayer, interactive video games create shared experiences, and they can even help teach empathy. Other positive effects of gaming involving social encounters include conflict resolution skills. In fact, in one study, teens who played video games more than 5 hours weekly had fewer peer relationship issues. While these experiences are not the same as face-to-face interactions, they can still foster better social skill development. And for children who are inherently shy, gaming invites an easier way to cultivate these abilities.
  • Better Academic Performance – To the surprise of many, a major benefit of gaming involves improved school performance. In fact, many educators utilize video games to introduce students to STEM curricula, improve math skills, and teach logic. MINECRAFT in particular has been recognized to not only help foster creativity but also design skills. In one research of 3,000 teens, one of the positive effects of gaming noted was that of better academic achievement. Not only is gaming often the first opportunity to learn about STEM subjects. But gaming can also steer kids toward career trajectories in these same fields.

Recommendations for Parents

Like everything, gaming can have its down sides as well. If it becomes too excessive or frequent, it can interfere with healthy activities that undermine the benefits of gaming. As a result, it’s important that parents understand how to approach video game use with their kids. Parents certainly should be aware of the types of games their children play and the length of time spent gaming. Likewise, they should use parental controls that protects their children’s privacy and restricts interactions to known players. And for children under 5, video gaming technology use should be less than 1 hour of screen time a day. These are basic practices every parent should consider in an effort to promote the positive effects of gaming.

In addition to these measures, there are specific game features to consider. In general, multiplayer games are better than single-player games. Multiplayer formats encourage social skill development, conflict resolution, and other skills. In addition, games that encourage activity and movement are better for physical health. And games played on devices that parents can easily monitor, like a television, are preferred. It should also be noted that video games are not a developmental necessity but instead a privilege. Other health and development needs should be met first before time for gaming is permitted. These practices also ensure the positive effects of gaming will be realized.

Red Flags to Know

Without question, there are many positive effects of gaming that parents need to recognize. With these insights, parents can better leverage these activities so their child enjoys the benefits of gaming. But at the same time, it is also important to recognize behaviors that indicate gaming may be excessive. For example, children who are unable to turn off a game or who acts out at the end of a session lack good boundaries. Others who rely on gaming to cure their boredom may also have unhealthy perspectives about video games. In most cases, however, a reasonable approach to gaming will promote constructive habits and behaviors. In turn, children will be more likely to reap the benefits of gaming rather than experience harm. As with many things, moderation and a wise strategy go a long way in ensuring your child experience is a positive one.


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