Video games are a polarizing subject and there are lots of factors to consider. For example, the positives of gaming include improving mental health and socializing, improving reading skills and cognitive abilities, and helping with decision-making. However, there are also a lot of concerns over the risks of video games, with research suggesting that games can cause disrupted sleep, media addiction, and potential issues with violent behavior.
We rarely hear about the benefits of gaming, but video games were a lifeline for many children and teenagers during the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021. School closures, social isolation, and quarantine meant that many children were isolated from their friends and family members, with limited opportunities to socialize or have fun.
Gaming gave kids an opportunity to escape the stress associated with COVID-19 restrictions and, more importantly, enabled them to connect with the friends they were unable to see in real life. As well as this, there are a lot of important skills and life lessons that kids are learning from video games.y
Tips for safe gaming for kids
When asking ‘are video games good for kids?’ a lot of the concerns are over safety. Want to make sure that your kids are safe while gaming? Here are our top tips:
- Know who they are gaming with - A lot of online games let your kids play with people from all over the world. It's good to know whether your kid is playing online with strangers or with friends.
- Check what the game is about - Games have age ratings to help you know the minimum recommended age. You can also find out about a game by looking up reviews online, helping make sure that your kid isn't playing something with inappropriate content.
- Activate parental controls - A lot of game systems, phones, and tablets all have parental controls to make sure that your kid can't access inappropriate games. Popular games such as Roblox and Fortnite, and game marketplaces like Steam have parent controls you can turn on as well.
- Monitor your child's spending - If you're worried that your kid might spend too much on games, you can keep an eye on their spending through your GoHenry parent app. You can also put in spending limits or limit your kid's prepaid debit card so they can't spend money online. You'll also get updates when they use their card.
- Discuss gaming with your child - Talk to your kids about what they are playing, and encourage them to tell you if they see anything in a game that upsets them. Your kids should also know they can come to you if someone they play a game with makes them feel uncomfortable.
Concerns about gaming 🕹
Although it’s comparatively rare, the World Health Organisation has recognized gaming addiction as a disorder, and there are other concerns such as in-game bullying, and online grooming, which is why it’s so important to talk to your child about staying safe online.
But, for the majority of children, research suggests that gaming can be beneficial as it can improve reading and social skills, boost communication and problem-solving abilities, and reduce stress and anxiety.
Whether your child is an established gamer or only became interested recently, read on to find answers to the most common questions about the unexpected benefits of gaming.
Can gaming reduce stress and anxiety? 😰
Experts believe that gaming can help children to manage stress and anxiety, which was particularly important during COVID-19 lockdowns. Researchers from the University of Saskatchewan found that gaming helped players to relax and detach from what was going on around them. Crucially, it also helps children to regain a sense of control over their environment.
Further research from Oxford University found that people who play video games report greater wellbeing than those who don’t.
GoHenry customer Jade, aged 17, says that gaming helped her manage her mental health during lockdown, and even helped her to make new friends.
She says: “I struggled a lot with isolation, loneliness, and depression during lockdown. I have ADHD and because of this I find I struggle a lot when I don’t have anything to focus my attention on.”
So Jade saved up her allowance and birthday money using her GoHenry app, and borrowed a little extra from her dad, so she was able to buy her own PC.
“Being able to hop on the computer and talk to my friends whenever I wanted was incredible, and it did wonders for my mental health. I didn’t feel lonely anymore because almost every night I could speak to all my friends and play video games. I also met a ton of other girl gamers from all over the world through group chats and social media who I now play with most days. I am now a part of a huge discord group with over 100 girl gamers all over the world, which is where I make most of my online friends.”
Jade, age 17
Can video games improve reading skills? 📚
A study carried out by the National Literacy Trust (NLT), The Association of UK Interactive Entertainment (Ukie), and the book publishing company Penguin Random House found that video games can support young people when it comes to their literacy skills, creativity and empathy.
Almost 5,000 children and young people were surveyed, and 79% said that they read a lot of content about gaming, including books, blogs, and reviews, and 35% said that they thought gaming made them better readers.
An additional 63% of children surveyed said that gaming helped to encourage their creativity through writing, thanks to writing game scripts, sending advice to other players, writing fan fiction, or submitting reviews.
Do video games help children to develop social skills?
Gaming has often been criticized for keeping children indoors and in front of a screen instead of playing outdoors with friends. But research suggests that the social element of gaming can help children to form social connections and improve their communication skills.
The NLT, Ukie & Penguin Random House study found that 76% of the children surveyed talked to their friends about gaming, which helped them to build social connections. An additional 65% said that gaming helped them to imagine being someone else, which can help them relate to others.
Another study by gaming company HyperX found that 76% of parents thought that gaming had helped their children to keep up with friends during lockdown.
Parents have reported that gaming is particularly beneficial to children on the autism spectrum because it gives them an environment that strips away situations and behavior that they find most challenging, such as background noise, eye contact, and social cues. This gives them a good opportunity to develop social skills and build friendships.
Do video games help to build self-confidence? 😎
Video games can give children a space to succeed that has nothing to do with academic achievement, sporting success, or social status. Gaming gives them an opportunity to experience exciting adventures, think big, and challenge themselves to step outside their comfort zone.
Gaming also teaches children about winning and losing and reminds them that they can master a skill with practice and persistence. The sense of pride and self-belief that children experience when they succeed can translate into their school and social life, leaving them feeling more confident in their abilities.
Can gaming improve concentration? 🙇
Games that require logic, strategy, and problem-solving skills to win can help to boost your child’s concentration and memory. Many games also require players to make fast decisions, which can teach the brain to process information more quickly and help children to develop their multi-tasking abilities. Games like Minecraft also help children to develop the patience and perseverance required to complete a project.
There’s even some evidence that gaming can help children with ADHD.
A study of 348 children with ADHD, reported in The Lancet, found that children who played a computer game for 25 minutes per day, five days per week, displayed a significant improvement on a commonly used attention test.
Could gaming help your child to get their dream job?
Businesses are waking up to the fact that the skills children learn from gaming could be an asset in the job market.
The gaming industry is now bigger than the film and music industries combined, which means there are more opportunities in software design and development. Not only that, skills learned from gaming can be transferred to a range of professions from the military to medicine, business, aviation, and engineering.
So maybe your child could make a career out of Fortnite after all!
Do video games help improve cognitive abilities?
Video games let us step into worlds we can’t find anywhere else. They may also give us a new perspective on the world we know, as video games can provide a different angle to view and interact with even everyday surroundings.
Video games can help with multiple cognitive processes: attention, working memory, spatial manipulation, processing speed, reasoning, reading comprehension, long-term memory, and others, meaning that gaming can have a positive impact on intelligence. 3D games can improve spatial memory and recognition ability, as well as improve spatial object tracking and coordination. This means that kids who play 3D games may be better equipped to understand complex spatial relationships and keep track of items on the move. Think of it like watching people passing through a crowded shop – gaming can help kids remember and track the paths of all those people, better than people who don’t play games.
Playing video games can also help improve processing speed and reaction time, which is a vital cognitive ability that is useful for many aspects of life, including playing sports and driving vehicles. Processing speed can also play a role in helping people better understand arguments in fast-paced debates. Needless to say, this can be beneficial in a wide range of employment fields and workplaces and support academic studies and other pursuits.
Do video games help improve problem-solving?
There are a lot of puzzle games out there that many people swear by for improving their ability to solve problems, but this is not the only example of games helping with logical thinking. In fact, most video games can help children improve their problem-solving skills. This can help your kids in many ways. For example, they can figure out how to do chores even if they have not done them before.
Any video game where your child has to achieve a goal can help with problem-solving, whether that means they have to navigate a suitable path from one location to another, or if they need to work out the best way to tackle a group of enemies. Almost any game will help expose your children to problem-solving.
Even better, much of this problem-solving takes place in a safe environment. If your child fails, no real harm generally comes to them, and they will usually have a chance to re-do that section of the game. This means that they can learn from their mistakes, and they can try new ways to succeed without risk.
In fact, this process of trying, failing, and reassessing is essential as it’s linked to how we learn any new skill – and playing video games can help children figure out how to learn on their own.
Can video games help build multitasking skills?
A large number of games involve focusing on a range of different aspects at once. Role-playing games encourage players to constantly track their character’s statistics and resources in real-time, while driving games mean the player has to stay focused on the positions of multiple cars. This helps develop their hand-eye coordination as well.
All of these are beneficial and can help your child learn valuable visual-to-auditory skills in attentional shifting, which are what help people to focus on multiple arrays of information that arrive one after another. Skills in this area can be useful in information processing – think of any occasion you’ve seen someone struggling to make notes while also listening to a meeting, and you’ll know how important this can be. Helping your child to learn multitasking skills will help in school lessons, college lectures, and the workplace.
While some parents might hope children avoid these games, first-person shooter games may help improve a child’s mental flexibility. Being flexible in this area allows people to switch between tasks more efficiently without a lag or delay. This is vital for learning how to multitask, as this helps them adapt to sudden changes in the environment or goals they're aiming for. These are useful skills for the workplace. Mental flexibility is vital for keeping a good workflow if you get a call while in the middle of writing a report or for handling any other work distractions. These skills can also be gained from many different types of games as well, such as strategy games or role-playing games.
Do video games improve decision-making skills?
There’s a great deal of research to suggest that playing video games improves decision-making skills, though it appears not all games are created equal in this area. Some of the best games for improving decision-making include role-playing games and real-time strategy games.
The fact that gaming helps to improve decision-making skills is hardly a surprise when you consider that success in so many games requires players to make quick decisions. As with problem-solving skills, your children can also use video games to develop their decision-making skills in safe environments, where they do not have to suffer the repercussions of making poor choices.
There are games that encourage players to make decisions about a range of subjects, from simple decisions about which route to take or what type of car to use for rough terrain, all the way up to critical decisions about finances- like our in-app Money Missions - or public infrastructure. These kinds of planning and decision-making games can play a role in developing skills needed for many real-world applications such as investing, entrepreneurial skills, or workplace management decisions.
Can video games help improve teamwork?
There’s a huge range of multi-player games out there, and many kids have probably played games with others at some point, whether this was a cooperative puzzle game or an online battle game. In team-based video games, there is often a significant emphasis on communicating with your teammates and making plans for how to win. There are even games where you have to complete tasks like guiding another player through a maze from a bird’s eye view – which is very similar to a lot of team-building activities done in schools and workplaces.
It's probably no great surprise that video games can improve teamwork. It might be a surprise, however, that playing video games may achieve better results than old-school team building. Research demonstrates that new teams that played video games for 45 minutes together are 20% more productive than teams that did traditional team-building exercises.
Gaming can help your kids learn to work as a team with their other gamer friends. It can also help them develop better communication skills, including listening and how to present information clearly, making decisions as a group, how to delegate tasks, and how to lead a team under pressure.