Not All Video Games are Bad for Kids

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

New research shows that video games for kids may not be all bad. A new study shows that playing the right kind of video game can instill positive values in children, like kindness and helpfulness, rather than hurting.

The study is in contrast to findings that violent video games played by children can induce aggression and other negative behaviors. Helpful behavior and playing prosocial video games was strongly linked in the research published in the current (June 2009) issue of Personality and Social Psychology.

The article reviews three separate studies from different countries, involving kids in different age groups. All of the studies showed that kids who play prosocial video games are more inclined to display helpful behavior after playing.

Lead study author Douglas Gentile, an Iowa State University psychologist says, "Dozens of studies have documented a relationship between violent video games and aggressive behaviors, but this is one of the first that has documented the positive effects of playing prosocial games." The results show that not all video games are bad, especially for susceptible children.


Video games that have a positive effect on kids show people helping other people – supporting and assisting each other using non-violence.

"These studies document that children and adolescents learn from practicing behaviors in games," said Rowell Huesmann, a U-M co-author of the report. Just as children can learn violence and aggression, it seems they can also learn helpfulness and kindness from the right kind of video games.

Of the three studies, one of the most interesting involved college students. A ten -dollar prize was offered to the partners of 161 study participants if they solved all of either easy, medium or hard puzzles. Students who played violent video games were more likely to give their partners difficult puzzles, as opposed to those who played prosocial video games, offering their partners easier puzzles.

Another study looked at 2,000 Japanese children ages 10 to 16. The children were surveyed about exposure to prosocial video games, in addition to how helpful they had been to others over the last month. After three to four months, the researchers found a strong connection between non-violent video games and the children’s reports of helpful behavior.

"Taken together, these findings make it clear that playing video games is not in itself good or bad for children. The type of content in the game has a bigger impact than the overall amount of time spent playing,” says Bushman. The study shows that not all video games are harmful, and they can actually teach children and young adults positive, helpful behaviors.

University of Michigan News Service