- Making new friends: People sometimes imagine kids who game as isolated, sitting alone in a dim room with a controller in their hand. In fact, multi-player online games provide intense connections and teamwork via strategy. Besides that, a friendship that emerges because of a video game will likely lead children to discuss interests outside of video games.
- Video games can be physical: Pokemon Go is sweeping the nation, getting people of all ages off of their couches and outside to catch these adorable creatures. Wii Fit has people losing weight and tracking their progress and Dance Dance Revolution is a fun way to get some exercise and learn some new moves. These examples have obvious physical links, but studies show that even games that only require a handheld remote provide full-body interaction. Kids who play sports games are also more likely to try those same sports outdoors.
- Video games encourage quick decision making: It’s well known that games stimulate hand-eye coordination, but they also encourage kids to make rapid choices. They learn to scan a situation for possible options and to arrive at a plan of action quickly. Kids who play video games also adapt faster and learn instantaneously from their mistakes. These same traits can be very beneficial when applied to everyday situations (and maybe even emergencies) in real life.
- Video games encourage empathy: Reading works of fiction is perhaps the most beneficial activity when it comes to building empathy—to really get inside someone’s head and see the world from their perspective, it helps to immerse in their internal dialogue. People who read fiction are often kinder, more open-minded, and less likely to fear people who are dissimilar to them. But narrative video games may do the same thing. Playing the role of both the hero and the villain and/or switching avatars regularly gives a good dose of “walking a mile in somebody else’s shoes.” Kids who get deep into a narrative video game will begin to grasp concepts like plot, flashback, and foreshadowing—all things that they can apply in their interpretation of other forms of fiction in their lives.
- Gaming may slow aging: like puzzles or other brain teasers, video games that require memory, reaction time, problem-solving, and/or strategy (and that’s pretty much all of them) can improve cognitive function and stimulate synapses.
Like everything, moderation may be key when it comes to how much you let your kids play video games. It also might help you to observe them as they play, ask questions, and try to get involved with your kids at their level. Anything that lets you engage can be a good thing if you let it!