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Playing Video Games May Have Positive Effects On Kids: Study

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Video games often get a bad rap, with many parents believing that they negatively affect children's well-being. A new study, however, offers an opposing view and has revealed gaming's potential health benefits.

Researchers out of Columbia University and Paris Descartes University probed the link between the time devoted to playing video games and the mental health — along with social skills and cognition — of young children.

After adjusting factors such as gender, age and number of kids, the team discovered that high usage of video games translated to 1.75 times the chances of optimum intellectual capacity, as well as 1.88 times the odds of high general competence in school. The more a child played video games, the less relationship issues he also had with other children.

In addition, the study saw no significant link with any mental health problem as reported by a child, teacher, or mother.

"These results indicate that children who frequently play video games may be socially cohesive with peers and integrated into the school community," explains author and epidemiology professor Dr. Katherine M. Keyes.

Dr. Keyes, however, warned that one should not over-interpret the results, stressing the importance of limiting screen time and game usage in ensuring a student's success.

The results were based on kids ages 6 to 11's information as sourced from the research project called School Children Mental Health Europe. The participants answered questionnaires, while teachers shared figures and evaluations on academic performance and success.

Factors at play included being male, older and part of a medium-sized family. Interestingly, having a single or less-educated mother meant reduced time spend on video game usage.

The findings were discussed in the journal Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology.

Previous studies have highlighted potential health gains from playing video games. "Brain training" video games, for instance, were found to improve brain connections in the thalamus of multiple sclerosis patients.

As results demonstrated how video games can alter certain brain operations, the scientists are now looking at incorporating them into a rehabilitation plan used in conjunction with other cognitive enhancement techniques.

Photo: Ian Dick | Flickr

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