by: Simon Williams
; edited by: Michael Hartman
; updated: 5/25/2012
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While the media often focuses its attention on negative aspects of gaming, it rarely discusses the positive effects of playing video games on children. Explore some of the ways in which gaming can improve a child's cognitive and perceptual abilities, and social skills.
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Introduction - What are the Effects of Video Games on Children?
Since computer gaming exploded in popularity amongst children in the 1980s, reporting on the hobby has tended to concentrate on perceived negative effects of video games on children. While this creates easy headlines, research of the effects of violent video games on children has demonstrated that the links are inconclusive. In fact, multiple scientific studies have shown that gaming can have a highly positive effect on children's cognitive and perceptual skills and aid in their development, and that video games, far from being an anti-social hobby, can also help a child develop important social skills and make friends.
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Positive Cognitive and Perception Effects of Video Games
Amongst the positive effects of computer and video games on children are an improvement in basic motor skills and dexterity. Using game controllers and remembering complex control schemes, as well as reacting to fast and furious action on-screen, can help massively improve hand-eye coordination, even in children suffering from physical impairment in motor skills. Video gaming can also improve mental skills such as problem solving and recognition, as well as imparting a deep sense of achievement to a child.
Video games studies have also shown that computer gaming is a far more interactive experience for a child than watching television. Video games can immerse children in imaginative and exciting fictional worlds, as well as expose them to new and interesting cultures and influences. The imaginative involvement in video game worlds can often lead to interest in other creative endeavors in later life.
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Positive Social Effects of Video Games
Once misrepresented as a solitary and anti-social hobby, video gaming is now being recognized as in fact a highly social activity. PBS found that nearly 60% of video game players enjoyed playing with their friends, and more than a quarter played games as a family activity. The integration of online services such as Xbox Live, with its friends lists and voice chat, has helped to further integrate socializing into gaming, while social networking media such as Facebook both feature games themselves and are used as components of online games functionality. Playing an online game has become a way for children to socialize with friends from their own and other cultures when physical socializing may be impossible due to barriers of distance and other factors.
Multiplayer games can help to encourage teamwork and tactical gameplay skills in children, and groups of children playing together have shown improvement in the ability to plan solutions to problems. Co-operative video games, based on two or more players working together to overcome the game environment's challenges, have seen a dramatic rise in popularity over the last few years. Even competitive multiplayer games can often lead to the formation of strong bonds of friendship after the game is over, as the shared enjoyment of competing and appreciation of another player's skill creates common interests.
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Gaming is massively popular amongst children for a simple, but often overlooked, reason: they take something positive from the experience, which makes them want to return and continue that experience. Video games are set to become the most popular form of media in the 21st century so it is vitally important that parents understand the beneficial effects of video games on children, rather than being frightened by attempts by older media to stigmatize and scapegoat a hobby that brings great pleasure to millions of children across the globe.