Wii, Xbox 360 and Other Video Games Offer Some Benefits

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Wii, Xbox 360, PlayStation, and other video games are hot on holiday gift lists, but some parents wonder whether these games offer any benefits or are detrimental to kids. The results of a new study may put some minds at ease, while others may not.

According to the findings reported in the latest issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science, regular gamers transfer their skills as fast, accurate information processors to real-life situations. The authors also found that as gamers got faster, their speed was apparent on various unrelated laboratory tests of reaction time.

Gamers also did not become less accurate as their speed increased, a belief held by many skeptics. The study’s authors believe that this skill is a result of an improvement in the gamer’s visual cognition. Playing video games improves mental rotation skill performance, spatial and visual memory, and the ability to perform tasks that require divided attention. Based on their findings, the scientists propose that training with video games may reduce gender differences seen in visual and spatial processing, and well as help prevent some of the cognitive decline that occurs with aging.

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That being said, a recent statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics noted that exposure to violence in media, including video games, represents a significant health risk to children and adolescents. The Academy noted that based on extensive research, media violence can contribute to nightmares, aggressive behavior, and desensitization to violence.

A recent University of Florida study examined the amount and content of video games played by children in relation to behavior and academics. The authors found that time spent by children playing violent games was associated with aggression while educational games were related to good academic achievement.

It appears that the health impact on young people who play video games such as Wii, Xbox 360, and PlayStation is mixed. While playing video games may improve mental faculties, hand-eye coordination, problem solving skills, and provide intellectual stimulation, they may also have a negative effect on behavior. Both the benefits and drawbacks of playing video games depend on the types of games played, the frequency of play, and the lifestyle and environment in which the child is being raised.

SOURCES:
American Academy of Pediatrics
Council on Communications and Media. Pediatrics 2009 Nov; 124(5): 1495-503
Dye MWG et al. Current Directions in Psychological Science 2009 Dec; 18(6): 321-26
Hastings EC et al. Issues in Mental Health Nursing 2009 Oct; 30(10): 638-49

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