Kids who play video games do better as adults

Kids who play video games do better as adults

So much of the discussion of school comes down to video games. Especially for boys. And here’s why: in most cases, if you tell boys they can spend their time doing whatever they want, and they can learn whatever is interesting to them, they will learn a lot about video games.

It’s difficult for most parents to allow their kids to play video games for hours and hours every day. I know, so I spend a lot of time reading about the effects of video games to understand the dilemma. And the first thing I’ll tell you is that research based on “screen time,” which includes television, concludes that it’s detrimental to kids in large doses. Research specific to video games shows largely positive effects from high engagement.

The core difference is passive vs. active engagement. When a kid is zoned out in front of a TV, there is no problem-solving or strategizing. That’s not true for a video game. A kid who is completely absorbed in a video game and can’t hear a word his mom says is actually exhibiting the behavior psychologists like Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi call flow—which is the highest form of learning because it’s such engaged attention toward mastery of a skill that you don’t notice anything around you.

The American Medical Association recommends limited screen time because of the passive nature of watching TV, but ironically school is passive, like TV, and harmful to kids for all the same reasons that screen time is passive and harmful.

Video games are not passive. I come across research all the time explaining why unlimited video game time makes for healthy kids in the same way that unlimited baseball practice does for a kid who loves baseball. A kid stops naturally when he is exhausted from exerting effort.

I have to tell this to myself every day when I hear the boys screaming about their video games from the room next to me.

And, recently, I’ve found a bunch of research that shows that gamers are happier and more successful as adults. This is what will get me through my doubt for this week:

Gamers do better in jobs that are active.
For the types of jobs that require hand-eye coordination, gamers are not only better at doing the job, but continuing to play the games a little bit each week keeps these professionals sharp at work. We have known about this research for a while from the military, but a study from Iowa State University shows that even surgeons perform better when they regularly play video games.

Gamers are better at jobs that are intellectual.
In the future, thinking type jobs will be largely about data gathering, analysis, and collaboration. So kids need to learn data gathering early. If you tell a kid to do research online for a paper they are writing for school, the kid is not doing self-directed research. They are finding something because they were told to. Gamers constantly gather information online about the game to be better players. The data collection and synthesis skills are much stronger for someone obsessed with a topic, because they are driven to find more and more specialized information.

In the workplace right now, the gap between the value of a younger person and an older person often rests in their differing abilities to search for information online. In ten years the search and synthesis skills one will need in order to be a high performer at work will be much higher than they are today. This is okay, because kids brains fundamentally change when they are online searching and taking in information all day in odd bits and chunks. If you don’t allow your kids’ brain to develop this way, they eventually will have an outdated way of problem solving.

Gamers are happier over the long run.
ScienceDirect re-published a study that shows that gamers report a higher sense of wellbeing than non-gamers as they age. A lot of this probably has to do with the fact that gaming is social and gives people a sense of belonging to a community. Which means that the long-term benefits of  spending a lot of time on video games are similar to the long-term benefits of spending a lot of time at church.

118 replies
  1. Joanna
    Joanna says:

    Penelope, does the research tease apart the value of different kinds of video games? Do FPS games correlate as positively as, say, sandbox games or platformers? I understand that there is some anecdotal evidence that excessive FPS play may be detrimental.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      That’s a really interesting question. Personally, I think the first-person shooter games (FPS) are totally gross. They just creep me out. So I intuitively feel that they are differently. But I haven’t done a lot of research on this topic. I think we can guess that for fast-twitch muscles and performing under stress, FPS games are great. But then psychopaths are probably pretty top-notch at these skills as well. So I don’t know. It’s a new angle for me to take when worrying about video games! Stay tuned.


      • karelys
        karelys says:

        I always think that watching death on tv and games are just setting us up for a bigger than life shock if we ever have to experience even being shot, taking a punch, etc.

        They make it look so easy on tv.

        Both my husband and brother play COD and it’s incredible how much hand-eye coordination they need, how immersed they get, how in-tune they are with the avatar. I can’t handle it. I get nauseous.

        Other than it’s pretend killing people whose face you don’t even see I think it has incredible possibilities to grow the brain.

        Perhaps we’d have less alzheimer problems in prior decades if COD was big and recommended by doctors.

        • Heather Sanders
          Heather Sanders says:

          I get nauseated too! Especially watching them play Minecraft. Then again, I get nauseated sitting in the back seat. The only thing I purposely do, knowing my head will be in circles when I get off, are roller coasters. The charge or thrill is entirely worth the desire to vomit after.

          • Lucas Thornhill
            Lucas Thornhill says:

            Many people think that Minercraft is not nauseating it help people start spell a lot better and help people get use to a keyboard better because many people had to type more and needed more hand moment and eye coordination.

        • Dell
          Dell says:

          a psychopath finds fps games a usefull tool, its not some initiation ritual so don’t worry too much about it, its influence on you depends on your personality and thinking patterns.

      • Karen
        Karen says:

        I’m not sure it’s all that relevant. I don’t know any gamers who play only FPS games. Even if the cognitive benefits are inferior they are just one option among the many types of games my kids play. And not all FPS games are gross; my 8 year old plays Transformers.

      • Tommy
        Tommy says:

        How can you say this is a hand eye enhancement? You’re not moving any muscles! Use your brain for a second! Lets break this down for a second. You’re gonna agree that sitting in front of a screen moving your thumbs increases the speed at which your muscles move? As a personal trainer, ex-profesional baseball player and amateur boxer, I can absolutely, 100% say that your are incorrect. Again, for ANYONE to improve hand eye-coordination, you need to work on muscles moving.. Not your thumbs. Try to hit a double end bag in a boxing gym, thats hand eye (even the speed bag isn’t hand eye.. it’s rhythmic) Try to hit a baseball, that’s is also hand eye.. Sitting in front of a screed fiddling with your thumbs is NOT hand eye-coordination.. Use your heads, please

        • Venus
          Venus says:

          Tommy, I found your post. You are not %100 accurate. You are claiming using buttons on a control while watching the actions on a screen is not hand eye coordination, but it is a form of hand eye coordination. This inaccuracy is because you are using an incorrect definition of hand eye coordination. Yes the movements you use in sports while looking at what you are doing is hand eye coordination but so is writing, controlling a game remote, or using a mouse to control a cursor on a screen. This is what I pulled from a website for defining hand eye coordination: “Hand-eye coordination is the ability of the vision system to coordinate the information received through the eyes to control, guide, and direct the hands in the accomplishment of a given task, such as handwriting or catching a ball. Hand-eye coordination uses the eyes to direct attention and the hands to execute a task.”

          • Paul
            Paul says:

            Ok, Venus thanks for prizing apart Tommy’s argument and finding a flaw with his semantics, this sort of contribution is most unhelpful. Tommy is clearly talking about the fact that you *only* use your thumbs. Have you seen how rigid kids’ shoulder’s get when they sit in front of a console all day? What Tommy’s getting at is simply that you need to use your *whole* body not just a small part of it to be truly healthy and engaged. Large muscle work has been shown to improve memory and overall mental health (see also see this excellent article from the Franklin Institute ( Anyone who has played video games and also exercised will see that the two are fundamentally *different* and that the feeling you get from doing *actual* physical work is much more *satisfying* and *real* than any perceived *achievement* you get from playing in a virtual world, because it is an illusion of achievement not an actual result. Have you ever felt empty and lost after finishing a game? It’s like having casual sex or doing a drug, its soulless and meaningless because it is simply an effortless pursuit of pleasure with a false “reward”. You still end up in your sad little room, with a body you don’t like and a world you think is out to get you because you’ve never actually tried anything *real*. Humans were given arms and legs and muscles to use, we are not simply brains in vats. Video games are simply a legal substance (like ritalin) that parents use to manage their children because they’ve forgotten how to do the things their parents did. Make a kite for your kids, go out and play ball, take them to the beach or the local pool or get them into saturday sport. It doesn’t matter what you do, just go out and do something with your body.

          • Venus
            Venus says:

            Paul, I tease apart his post for semantics, because proper language and use of words can be very important, especially when telling others to use their brains and claiming %100 knowledge of said topic. Proper use of words and language can sometimes be very important. I did not say there is no benefit to physical health. These are different things, both with their own benefits. I don’t need to tear down one to speak of the benefits of the other. No one is saying physical activity isn’t important, it is important for every persons life. Gaming can also benefit some things, or do you deny this? Do you honestly believe there is no benefit to gaming? Physical activity and gaming can both be done in a healthy life. They can be combined, work together, or be done separately, but both have legitimate benefits of their own. You speak as though gaming will only lead to a sad, unhealthy, empty life. I have many friends and a husband that enjoy a healthy life, are physically active, enjoy gaming, and enjoy a good paying job because of their technical sense. My kids enjoy plenty of hands on activities, plenty of physical activities, and plenty of gaming activities. You do not have to forfeit one in pursuit of the other.

        • Sergio Gutierrez
          Sergio Gutierrez says:

          Um yeah Ur sort of right about muscle movement its just that… that is the second step. The first step is your brain it needs to think of how its going to react not OK so i need to move my right arm here —> then my left leg here <—- no. When u play video games it helps u build all of these strategies on how to complete the task. So the biggest part of that is Ur brain is Ur brain which is a muscle… duh so yeah I'm a 16 year old gamer and I know what I mean . I've research all about this and ive even studied myself time over time. So to sum this all up video games are not that bad there good for the brain and they help out in the future. And t.v. is kind of useful but is really bad. U font really see that many over weight gamers usually you see over weight people that watch TV all day. So don't stop gaming kids just make sure its an online social game like GTA 5 or cod ghost something where u can associate with other people don't be weird and play by Ur self that's how u can make a video game bad for u cause u don't associate with anyone.

        • Leon buck
          Leon buck says:

          No offence but you clearly havnt done any sort of research and quite frankly you are wrong. Eye hand co-ordination does not require large movements, piano players must have excellent eye-hand co-ordiantion to know where all the keys are. A sand bag (boxing bag) is far larger than a keyboard key therefore it takes less mind power to be able to hit it. I think that most games are very educational, pokemon taught me to read! I do however agree with some people in saying that some games e.g. Call Of Duty are not good for people, by adding stress and violent images into a child’s mind you could be corrupting them more than you can see.

        • Melanie Williams-Smotherman
          Melanie Williams-Smotherman says:

          Actually, you are talking about large muscle coordination, but that isn’t the full story. No one says that video games that only rely on hand controllers work the large muscles. Although the many Wii games and other platforms that also play more physically interactive games can do that.

          But FINE MOTOR skills and the connecting of the brain synapses are absolutely enhanced by video game playing.

          Reaction time, skillful dodging (yes, with the thumbs that have to translate the desire for a particular movement to the virtual being or object) and all the strategizing, problem solving, decision making that goes into playing a video game isn’t an idle activity. Just like playing chess isn’t.

          For young children, even stacking blocks, polishing a mirror or painting finger nails are useful exercises for developing hand-eye coordination.

          So, I can say 100% that you are not right saying that video games do not enhance hand-eye coordination. You are comparing apples to oranges in your own argument.

      • TheKnowerseeker
        TheKnowerseeker says:

        I know this blog entry is a year old now, but I just felt it important to point out that our U.S. military special forces use advanced FPS “games” (simulators) to teach tactics and such before they practice it IRL. Also, the free “America’s Army” FPS game, found on the Army’s website, is supposed to be pretty realistic and is recommended to anyone thinking of joining the Army or Marines.

    • Heather Sanders
      Heather Sanders says:

      When my 10 year old son was younger, my husband would play the FPS games after he went to bed. He was interested in them, but Jeff wasn’t really ready for him to be a participant.

      Now, they play Call of Duty and Halo games together. The girls aren’t at all interested in those games. Well, my 16 year old isn’t interested in any of them, but my 13 year old daughter enjoys Minecraft. It’s more about the interaction with her friends via the headset while they build in each other’s worlds.

      My 10 year old son likes Minecraft a lot too, but if his Daddy is home he wants to play the FPS games with him.

      I haven’t looked into the research about them. I’d be interested too.

    • Ada
      Ada says:

      “Violent Video Games Help Kids Manage Stress”

      “Studies of video game violence provided no support for the hypothesis that violent video game playing is associated with higher aggression. However playing violent video games remained related to higher visuospatial cognition.”

      “Video Games Lead to Faster Decisions that are No Less Accurate”

      • Penelope Trunk
        Penelope Trunk says:

        Wow. That’s really interesting about violent games helping to manage stress. It makes sense because hitting a wall with your fist is a stress reliever — totally not appropriate, but I can see how violence and stress relates.


        • kim
          kim says:

          Yeah, i dont buy that crap. I play CoD a lot and while its fun as a downtime activity, the one thing i can count on is getting really pissed off.

  2. Amanda
    Amanda says:

    Your posts about video games were the some of the hardest for me to swallow. As a kid, we weren’t allowed TV or video games, but I read books almost all the time. Your post that asked what you would have done if your reading had been limited to an hour a day made me reconsider my view of limiting screen time.

    I think that as an INFJ, I am a huge rule-follower, so it is hard for me to trust myself to do what interests me. Instead I want to do what is “right”. I suspect I would struggle with this as well when I have my own children.

    • Becky Castle Miller
      Becky Castle Miller says:

      Are you sure you’re an INFJ? INFJs are not rule-followers. They are driven by innate passions and values and are willing to break external rules that go against their core values. ISFJs are rule-followers.

      • Amanda
        Amanda says:

        Thanks for pointing this out. I think I have always misinterpreted my extreme dislike of conflict as a desire to follow rules.

        • karelys
          karelys says:

          I am an INFJ and for most of my life I disliked breaking rules and found pride and peace adhering to them.

          But what I’ve noticed is that the way people (adults) presented those rules to me made the biggest difference. If I was in Nazi Germany I’d probably break the “don’t help Jews” rule. But I thought it was fine following the “don’t cheat on your taxes rule” because there was a moral virtue attached to it in my cultural context.

          That said, maybe you like to follow rules when you think that it helps protect the peace and breaking them will only cause harm to people.

        • jms
          jms says:

          I am an INFP and a rule-follower also. I doubt it is unusual. Am fairly certain that rule-following is one of my core values. I think everyone should follow the “rules” and it really bothers me when they don’t. It also really bothers me when I don’t believe that rules are just or solve the problems they are meant to solve. So justice and clarity in rules is also a core value for me and I want the rules fixed when I don’t think they work. As a grownup, I’ve had to struggle to learn that no one’s going to fix the rules for me, and I have to accept the imperfection of them or give myself permission to break the rules, after all.

  3. MichaelG
    MichaelG says:

    Carpal tunnel problems are real though, and can sneak up on you. Don’t use up your entire lifetime supply of keystrokes by the time you are 18…

  4. Heather Sanders
    Heather Sanders says:

    This is MY personal struggle/challenge right now. (Well, not RIGHT now because my son is actually grounded for a few more days from video games due to behavioral issues.)

    I decided to try out the unlimited gaming time this summer to see how it impacts the kids’ lives over the course of a few months. I know that initially the gaming will be nonstop for my younger two kids. I also know that they will be forced to learn how to accommodate each other, since there is only one Xbox in the house, and they both prefer their Xbox games over the computer.

    I wonder how it will affect the hours we spend outdoors (walks, trips to the dam, taking picnics, and the pool).

    It should be interesting.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Something I am realizing about my unlimited video game policy is that it’s not really that unlimited. The kids have to do chores before they play video games, and they hate chores, so they put off chores by killing time together which ends up delaying video games for a while.

      Another interesting thing about unlimited video games is that when a friend comes over, the friend is excited for the no video game policy, but my sons don’t want to play video games when a friend is there. So my youngest son has gone so far as to ask me to make a no video game rule when friends are over so he can tell the friend they have to do something else.

      Heather, I bet you’ll find other surprising behaviors as a result of your own experiment!


      • Heather Sanders
        Heather Sanders says:


        We do this for birthdays or special sleepover type of situations. They play continuously – into the wee hours of the morning, actually – on Xbox or DSi’s.

        On the second day, they tend to head outside instead of spending the entire time in front of the Xbox. This is sort of why I’ve wondered how long mine would actually play if it were completely up to them.

        We’ll see…

    • Stephan
      Stephan says:

      I realize that I’m a bit late, and I really don’t have any business on this site, but as a 14 year old with ADD, I can say that gaming has helped me tremendously.
      I enjoy more realistic games (as far as FPS type games go) such as ArmA III (the most realistic military simulator In the world), as well as some more silly games, such as LittleBigPlanet, a platformer where you know no bounds. All of this, has helped my fine motor skills, hand eye coordination, teamwork, etc. tremendously.
      As far as unlimited gaming: I don’t really have a cap on the time I spend playing. Although gaming is one of my huge passions, and I play at least 2-3 hours on a schoolday, I spend most of my time out with my friends. Eventually you get tired (even in the summer) of constant non-stop shooting, or whatever, and you naturally do something else. So, I would go hang out with some friends. We do the sport of Parkour ( and we have a great time with that.
      All in all, I think unlimited gaming is very beneficial. As an added bonus, in RPG games such as the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, just an hour a day is NOT enough time to get anything accomplished!

  5. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    As long as we’re talking about church and engagement here, I recently read an article that spoke to the usefulness of live lectures. Two institutions (universities and churches) were cited in the article as still using them and universities are in the process of phasing them out with the Internet and other communication channels. So many churches are still using the lecture (sermon) to transmit their ideas to the congregation with evidently limited success.
    So the article goes on to say – “The problem is, our churches are structured to deliver sermons and music. If there’s any energy left, we disciple people. What if we could turn that around? What if there were a way of organizing believers around a weekly discipleship experience, instead of a weekly lecture-and-singalong?”
    The article can be found at .
    So I guess it’s not only the classrooms that are getting flipped.

  6. anastasia b
    anastasia b says:

    My husband plays video games daily and for a while I struggled with that, still do. I wish he was more involved with our kids than with his games. But I do notice that when I don’t nag him about it and let it go, he is more likely to want to spend time with us. He mostly plays at night, but that means he is in bed by morning, sleeps till noon, misses time to play with kids, and he is off to work second shift right after.

    I think it’s different for every person. Some people have self control and they will stop when they are tired. Others simply do not! My husband has very little self control and will power. He’ll be completely exhausted but still playing.

    I don’t know, I would rather see my kids reading, building stuff, drawing, and running around outside than stuck at a computer with a game. It’s just unnatural. Not to mention carpal tunnel. Not to mention it’s not real life. I see why the research makes sense, but there is more to the story.

    • Tim
      Tim says:

      Not to mention it’s not real life.

      What a weird thing to say in this context.

      What does a child do that is “real life”? Hopefully very little, because the children that are confronted with “real life” don’t have much in the way of a childhood.

      Children engage in all sorts of fantasy play and video games are just one of a variety of modes. Essentially, video games are a form of interactive art (although this can vary depending on the quality of the game). A child who is drawing a scenerio they’ve concocted isn’t anymore engaged in “real life” than the child who is playing a video game of someone else’s creation.

      Do you think that a child who paints on with watercolors is somehow more engaged in “real life” than a child who does so digitally?

  7. Jana Miller
    Jana Miller says:

    Where wer you when my kids were younger, I stressed so much about how much screen time they should have. I used to make them read for an hour for every hour of screen time.

  8. Sarah M
    Sarah M says:

    I agree with the other commenters–the gaming thing is the hardest pill for me to swallow, but it’s because of my personal experience with adult men gamers. I see total red flags of addiction in most of them I know. In reading the comments, seems I share my concern with other parents.

    Out of curiosity, have you ever done any research or read anything about adult gamers and what their relationships are like marital satisfaction, divorce rate, etc? I think that would be really interesting to read about. Most of the male gamers I know who play over an hour or two daily have a strained relationship with their spouse and are less inclined to play with their kids. I’m wondering how this measures to kids gaming (which obviously they don’t have the same type of responsibilities as a married-with-children-adult gamer).
    I checked out the well-being link up above but it didn’t go into any of that type of information.
    Sarah M

    • Sarah M
      Sarah M says:

      Also found this link today via a friend on facebook…thought it was worth the read:

      When I worked in the public school system while a college student, I will never forget after Christmas a 4th grader showing me in his backpack the Grand Theft Auto game his parents got him. This kid was sweet and compassionate towards his peers, but I have no idea why a 4th grader needs to be exposed to killing prostitutes.

      I know many games are not even close to this (you’ve mentioned Minecraft many times on your blog), and that some are so great for many reasons, but ugh, I just can’t stomach some of these games that kids are playing for fun.

    • Karen
      Karen says:

      My husband is a serious gamer and has been for most of his life. It used to bother me a bit but it doesn’t anymore for the following reasons:

      He’s works really hard every day to support us and deserves to do as he pleases with his down time.

      It’s a fairly inexpensive hobby.

      I know exactly where he is. He could be out at the bars drinking with his friends instead.

      It has provided a means for him to maintain close relationships with childhood friends who now live in distant places.

      It’s a great outlet for stress.

      It makes him happy.

      I worried when our two boys were very young that he wasn’t spending enough time with them. That is certainly not an issue now that they all game together and I know it is an interest that they will always share.

  9. Melissa
    Melissa says:

    I used to work in the video game biz (pg-rated social games) and ended up meeting my boyfriend, a game designer, at my old job.

    Even so, I’ve never been a gamer and I tend to avoid playing any type of game whenever possible. Mostly because it’s pretty easy for me to enter some sort of flow state and then—poof!—five hours have passed and I’m still in my pajamas. The other part I don’t like is trying to learn rules for something that has no practical application.

    My boyfriend isn’t like this at all. Don’t get me wrong, he can definitely binge-game for hours at a time, but he’s excellent at balancing our relationship, his work, personal projects, exercise, etc.

    And he actually feels good after playing games (the well-made ones anyway).

    If you feel like your SO isn’t balancing their game time effectively, it’s probably not the fault of video games.

    Good games give you feedback for making decisions. But making decisions outside of a game is messy. With so many variables, how can you ever know that you made the right life-decision two moves back?

    It’s both relaxing and engaging to enter a world where you understand the rules and where you can trace the effects of your decisions.

    I mean, don’t we want clear feedback in our relationships, too?

  10. Jason
    Jason says:

    I’ve played computer video games since 1981. I had a lot of fun but wasted a lot of my life. In terms of what video games actually gave me in return, I would say two things: very good reflexes and the inability to be jolted with surprise. The former has saved me in countless near-misses while driving, and the latter came recently after playing those realistically violent 3D shooters.

    Another thing I’ve noticed is that games have gotten extremely easy and simplistic in the last 10 years while becoming far more visually stimulating. Largely this is due to video game consoles taking over the market. Most games made today are designed for simply console controls and impatient people who like eye candy.

    It would be hilarious to watch these so-called gamers today sit down with an interactive fiction game from the 1980s like “Ballyhoo” and see how long they would last with no graphics and very tough and merciless puzzles.

  11. Mindy
    Mindy says:

    Hmmm. I can’t stand video games. It makes the kids loud, aggressive and argue about who’s turn it is. So I don’t really let the kids play much. Not to mention they can’t even pry themselves away to hear that I have even spoken but hey that is pretty typical everyday!! This is something I will have to ponder and discuss with my husband. Thanks

    • Tim
      Tim says:

      Your kids fight over whose turn it is to play the console, but why are you blaming the console for this?

      It’s likely that they would fight over whose turn it is to use any coveted limited resource. You might say “well they only have one (insert toy) but they never fight over THAT.” That’s because that toy isn’t something they prize. This really would likely happen with anything that is limited by scarcity.

  12. patricia
    patricia says:

    I’ve learned a lot about learning from my video game-playing sons. My older one, now 20, had to teach me to value what he did when he played. He made a convincing case.

    When my younger son was nine, he complained about an electricity class he was taking. (All three of my kids were/are homeschoolers.) He said, “The teachers put out the stuff and tell us what we have to do and how to do it. I don’t learn like that. I like to figure things out myself. I like to decide what I’m going to do.”

    And then he said, “I like learning the way I do when I play video games.”

    That sort of blew me away.

    When I asked him to elaborate on this, he said, “I don’t like someone telling me exactly what to do, but I don’t like being in the dark either. I like having my path clear, but my goal unclear.”

    In other words, he likes knowing which way he needs to go, but he also wants to discover in the process. That strikes me as a very creative, meaningful way to learn. Video games gave him this metaphor but he wants all of his learning to be like this. He pretty much demands it.

    Which sets traditional schooling up for failure, if you think about it. How can traditional classroom learning possibly be as engaging as a video game? Ha!

    This has pretty much become our goal in homeschooling: make my kid’s learning as engaging as a video game. If it isn’t turning out that way we shift gears.

    Useful metaphor.

  13. Leslie
    Leslie says:

    Awesome post. I have been a gamer since I first got Reader Rabbit when I was 5. It definitely helps with problem solving skills and dexterity.

    Keeping games away from kids will make them OBSESSED, even if they are in college and presumably grown adults. Once they get that free time with it after being held back for so long, it will consume them.

  14. Daniel Tran
    Daniel Tran says:

    Thank you Penelope for your insight and advice on education and learning! I’m a recent graduate working and a scientific startup firm, and I find it ironic after all the years of pushing video games away from my life, I have to use it’s technology for medical research!

    Keep up the good work Penelope!

  15. Ryan
    Ryan says:

    Thanks for this post, especially the paragraph comparing TV watching to school instruction (even more ironic when you consider how much teachers use videos to do the teaching these days). My sons are 4 and 5 and are already used to computer skills and video games (and this is all intentional). The next step for them is to learn to use Google to do better at their games (starting with Pokemon).

    My wife is a school teacher and we have some great discussions between her constraints of teaching in a school and what we both want for our kids’ education (personalized, interactive learning).

    Your blog is awesome and I hope you keep it up for years to come!

    • Donna
      Donna says:

      I’m shocked to hear about all the school bashing. My son attends a school in Canada that follows an inquiry based approach to learning and the kids get to choose their “way” through the curriculum. They spend hours outside studying their environment and making connections to their life, they come up with the big questions that they want answered and they decide how they are going to find their answers. The school has tons of technology available for the kids but the first thing they must learn is that there is a certain responsibility that comes with technology and internet use. My son gets up early to get to school early because he is so darn excited to go there and when he comes home he is full of excitement to tell me all the things he learned that day…..and no it is not a private school.

      I know this post was mostly about how great it is to let your kids play video games as much as they want but I’m the parent that would just be happy that our kids weren’t afraid to just go outside and wander around the neighbourhood and walk to school on their own. It’s fairly safe to just sit inside your house and play violent games but our children are afraid to go outside on their own and that’s a bigger issue.

  16. Allison
    Allison says:

    My mother-in-law says that First Person Shooter games are the pornography of violence. They desensitize viewers to real life violence, diminish thoughts about consequences, and subtly shift expectations. I don’t agree with her about everything, but I found this persuasive. It will be interesting to see the conclusions from more research.

  17. 2013 at 2:58 pm
    2013 at 2:58 pm says:

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  18. Nicola Westwood
    Nicola Westwood says:

    I hate that video games were invented my 2 sons r addicted…they r grumpy all the time all they talk about is games and when I take it away they sit and bug me until there blue in the face.

    What happened to playing outside? My eldest son is 10 and I said go play outside today but he has No-one to play with as all his friends r glued to video games every day. It’s frustrating.

    I got rid of the ps3 and then my son was getting bullied becos he wasn’t cool and we got the police involved with the school that’s how bad it’s got.

    I’ve suggested heaps of ides for outside we can teach ur younger brother how to play football but he always has an excuse. If he can’t play his laptop he wants his ipod.

    I don’t know what to do. :-(

  19. Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot
    Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot says:

    Kids need to be monitored. Mine would eat only icecream, stay on the screen things all day and have birds nests for hair if I didn’t set boundaries.

    Computer games have their place as we learn here but they are addictive, damage eyesight and lead to vitamin D deficiency amongst other things.

    So I boot mine off when I have the inner strength, listen to them whine about boredom then heave a sigh of relief when they find something else to do.

  20. Jeanne @soultravelers3
    Jeanne @soultravelers3 says:

    I usually like what you have to say, but couldn’t disagree more on this subject and think the research you use is a bit cherry picked. ( Typical- we all pick the research we like to read that backs our viewpoint or makes us feel more secure with a choice).

    There are plenty that show that video games ARE screen time and can harm in many ways. I am not a Waldorf parent, but they always have lots of research that says” computers inhibit creative thinking, movement, human interaction and attention spans”.

    I think one of the saddest things is how addicted kids are today with video games and I think it harms them as much as junk food does. I think parents should educate them about how and why they are both addictive and who is profiting by their addiction. I don’t think there is a parent whose kid does Minecraft that won’t also talk about the addiction problems.

    “Wow, I wish my kid loved to read like yours does”. That is one of the things I hear most on our open ended world tour…and usually from parents who have a kid/s who are addicted to video games. They are fascinated by her love of great books.

    I have never met a kid who is really a deep reader and loves books who is addicted to video games and I think being a great reader is key to learning.

    On the rare times we slip on media awareness ( like a stay with Grandma) I see a huge difference in attention span, behavior and book reading.

    A Pew Research Center survey found 87 percent of 2,000 middle and high school teachers said the Internet and digital technology have caused an “easily distracted generation with short attention spans.”

    There is a reason why kids are such bad readers today and reading ability continues to decline.

    MUCH better to be outside playing/creating with REAL things, connecting with real people, eating real food and curled up with a real great book.

    Like junk food, I don’t think screen time will kill a kid, and everyone must find their own comfort zone with today’s tech and kids ( interestingly some of the top tech peeps raise kids with NONE – …but I prefer to go mostly the unplugged old fashion route on this one.

    The EMF’s our kids get today is also something to consider. I have a dear friend with a VERY sick 16 year old boy with chronic fatigue, and his exposure to EMF’s has played a part.

    • Tim
      Tim says:

      A Pew Research Center survey found 87 percent of 2,000 middle and high school teachers said the Internet and digital technology have caused an “easily distracted generation with short attention spans.

      That’s a really weak piece of evidence. A bunch of teachers attributing causation to something does not make it so. It comes off like the teachers bemoaning the fact they have to compete to keep the child’s attention, and they aren’t very good at that.

    • Jennifer Westberg
      Jennifer Westberg says:

      I have just two data points, my own two children. My daughter gets up reads for 2 hours, then does math for fun, then plays Minecraft for 2-4 hours, and lastly reads again before bed. She loves books, but also she loves video games. My son is fascinated by Minecraft and plays 2-4 hours a day. But he goes outside for 2-3 hours a day and reads before bed every night. I do not force them to do these things. It is just the way they are.

    • Venus
      Venus says:

      My daughter loves to read, and will spend hours in her room reading. She also loves to play video games, and she will spend hours playing video games. I know plenty of kids that are massively into tech, video games included, get exemplary grades, and love reading.

  21. Randy Kulman
    Randy Kulman says:

    Penelope, One of the toughest things I hear about in my work as a child psychologist is how to keep kids active, social, and creative when they have the lure of technology in their face. I agree with your premise, essentially, games can be good for kids as one part of a healthy “play diet”. Games and technology are so powerful that parents often need to take an active role in their use.

    At the same time, kids and adults tend to learn best when we are attentive, motivated, and energized by what we are doing. In my work with kids and video games I came up with a term that parallels Csikszentmihalyi’s description of flow; “engamement”, where the child is cognitively immersed in game play. So games do offer a great potential for all types of learning.

    My clinical work and research suggests that children get far more from video games when their parents play together with them, when they initiate metacognitive discussions with them about how they made decisions in their gaming, and when they engage in activities that practice game-based skills in real world activities. I encourage parents to be participants and not observers (just like they would with board games and sports) if they want to make video game play worthwhile for their children.

    • Heather Sanders
      Heather Sanders says:

      “My clinical work and research suggests that children get far more from video games when their parents play together with them, when they initiate metacognitive discussions with them about how they made decisions in their gaming, and when they engage in activities that practice game-based skills in real world activities.”

      Randy, I couldn’t agree more. My son LOVES playing Xbox with his friends, but nothing beats playing with his Daddy. He’s more of a talker than my husband is (by far!), and from the time they start until they shut down, he has filled my husband’s ear with anything and everything about the game and the day.

      It’s like their bonding half-hour to hour.

    • Tim
      Tim says:

      Or they could also get this kind of interaction with other children. I don’t think it requires an adult to initiate or facilitate a discussion about gameplay.

    • Dylan
      Dylan says:


      I couldn’t agree more. Allowing kids to mindlessly engage in games is like telling them to go throw a ball against a wall as apposed to getting them to engage in a social and competitive team sport.

  22. Lori
    Lori says:

    This is the first time I’ve been here – not sure how I got here actually but I’m glad I did. I’m not sure which I liked more – your article or all the comments. I saw a bit of my son (and myself) in most of them. My 16 yr old son loves gaming. And when he’s not gaming he’s watching videos about gaming. And when he’s not watching he’s talking about gaming and computers and such. Some say (including me) that he’s addicted. But there’s a lot more to it than that.

    Big one is his personality. In grade 2, I had to take away all of his books because he’d stay up all night reading. Our photo albums show his various interests (aka obsessions) – Hot Wheels, Lego, Star Wars. And TV Shows – it seemed like everything would remind him of a scene in the show Corner Gas. But it’s not all bad. He’s been spec’ing out his new computer for about 3 months now including how many hours he has to work to pay for it based on net pay. Yesterday we waited in line for over 4 hours to get into a computer warehouse sale where he held his own in the conversations with the other adults in line. Yet he still doesn’t remember to take out the garbage. And then in past couple of months he’s missed almost 2 weeks of school. He was gaming & being on internet all night and then sleeping all day. But those problems point more to my own lack of boundary setting & enforcement than to him.

    I know that my level of influence is coming to an end quickly and it does worry me. How do I get him to internalize boundaries? To develop a work ethic. I’d much rather he learn these things now while it’s safe than after he’s had 15 jobs in a year or his wife is ready to leave him, etc. At the state he’s in right now I feel sorry for his boss and his future wife. And I really have no one to blame but myself. But I know that’s a whole different issue for a different post (and maybe even a different blog).

  23. JD
    JD says:

    I have found that my son’s passionate interest in a video game has helped him tremendously.
    Where he was shy now he wants to talk to other kids about it.
    Where he seemed stalled for creativity he comes alive with new ideas when he wants to expand upon the known characters or give them lives outside the game.
    Where before he did not care how things came into existence now he wants to know how the characters are created, both physically and on the screen. this lead to a discussion on factories and programming.
    It is a way for out whole family to bond as he wants both his father and i and even his little brother to play with him.
    His desire to purchase the characters led to a discussion of how money flows into our household and what we pay for (neeeds vs wants).
    I admit I was angry when my brother first bought the game for our son at the tender age of 5 but seeing how my son has handled it has been wonderful.
    I see him as a creative little person who used a commercialized product to spark worlds of fun for himself and everyone he can pull into his world.

  24. Clarita
    Clarita says:

    Wow… I never comment on anything online but I feel you all need to know something about video games.

    People who design video games design them to be ADDICTIVE. Meaning they actually study what makes addictive to things like drugs, gambling, etc. to make video games trigger the same thoughts and feelings.

    I love video games as much as the next person – it’s wonderful after a long day at the office to come home and rip an un-godly creature to shreds. I have not done extensive research on the pros and cons of video gaming, but it’s important to know that these games are designed to be addictive like meth, cigarettes and gambling are designed to be addictive.

  25. John
    John says:

    I am 15 and addicted to video games. Here is the situation, my mother has banned video games in the house. This makes me very upset and makes me feel a bit empty inside. A few posts earlier stated that the less video gamesare avalible to you the more likely you will do it later on in life. I think this is starting to happen to me. I am starting to pay money to play at internet cafe. It is the only possible way to satisfy my urge to play. I’ve tried disscussing with my parents but they keep saying “Video games are a bad influence”. There was a time when I was able to stay at a relatives house and play all I want. I have developed to love him more than my own parents. My grades went up because I made a deal with my relative. I had to finsih all my homework before playing and study for an hour. In time my parents busted my relative and my haven dissapered. My relative no longer lets me play and I see him as a traitor to me. After a month or so of rough relastionships I developed to hate him and I no longer speak with him. Now my grades are going downhill. I just cant get the video game off my mind. Whenever I study I dont feel a drive to do so. It’s getting sadder and sadder, I’ve even stolen money from my parents to pay to play. I’m really at a low right now and don’t know what to do. It would be nice to get some comments suggesting what I should do. thanks to all commenters.

    • Jacky T
      Jacky T says:

      Hi John,
      I was reading this blog and saw your post about needing video games. My 11 year old son enjoys them as well. You seemed sad and lonely and I would encourage you to seek someone to talk to. I volunteered at a local hotline and that can be a good starting point for you. Usually those voluneers know of different groups and where they meet. Wouldn’t it be fun if you could find a group that gets together to talk about say Minecraft? (That’s one of my son’s favs but don’t know which ones you like.)
      Age 15 can be tough and sounds like you are feeling very alone. I know our local public library has some fun activites for teens which has included video game play. So it was a chance to meet new people as well as play games. Worth a try and if you don’t see anyone your age, you can always just look around the library a bit. We live in the south so I always find the AC really great! Be well and hang in there. Life can be overwhelming at 15 because you haven’t “circled the globe” enough to see the ups and downs in life come and go.

  26. rinnie
    rinnie says:

    What a bunch of bunk. Who funded the study SONY? Geez, give me a break. My kids 8 and 10 are at their 3rd elementary because school is so easy for them. They are way ahead of their peers intellectually and they never play video games. This article is just so people can justify being lazy parents. “Kids decision making skills will be outdated if they don’t play video games” Was this written by a teen?

    • Tommy
      Tommy says:

      Thank god there’s someone on this insane page that sees things that way as well. My personal favorite was “Gamers are happier in the long run.” or some crap like that. I guess this idiot Penelope chick is going against everything science says about endorphins being release from PHYSICAL ACTIVITY! The people on this site are lunies.

      • Venus
        Venus says:

        You do not need to get on here and be rude and condescending. It’s fine if you have a different view on these matters, it is not fine to use no tact whatsoever.
        No one is saying kids shouldn’t do anything physical, but that doesn’t mean there are not legitimate benefits to playing video games as well as other normal activities for youth.

  27. Cindy
    Cindy says:

    My brother started playing crash bandicoot at 5 then halo at 10. He is now 16 he went to a governer’s school, skipped several grades, and now has a full scholarship to an engineering school. He wants to engineer plane and jets for the military. So I don’t see where any harm was done. That being said, I have a 9 month old baby boy and am petrified that he will become adicted, not want to spend time outdoors, or with family, and bring the ds or psp to family outings, camping trips, dinner, museums, car trips, if I let him play when he is older, and I don’t like the idea of that at all!

    • Georgina
      Georgina says:

      I’d almost buy this study except the fact that my cousin is a gamer and intelligent, but his social skills are severely lacking and he can only relate to other gamers. He’s got no game(pun intended) when it comes to women and very few women see gaming as a positive hobby, much less a mature activity. His brother is equally as intelligent and doesn’t game at all and is a social butterfly. I think the positive aspect of gaming is very limited and it’s quite easy to get addicted and develop more bad habits, rather than good skills. My game playing niece and nephew are almost adults and are lazy and are both 80-100# overweight, like their game playing parents who sit as soon as they get home. My kid tries to put games before everything else and I’ve had to ground him and hide the gaming console, just to get him to do anything else. You can get intelligence and hand eye coordination without video games, by the way. The world’s most intelligent people didn’t have an Xbox or a Wii. The study doesn’t seem address enough to come full circle, do this study is to subjective. I like pinball and a few other games, but anything over 5-10 minutes long is a waste and boring because of sitting on my tush. I don’t find gaming engaging, it’s almost robot feeling, ick.

  28. Georgia
    Georgia says:

    Is it the same for the girls too? the number of girl gamers increases nowadays , and on this article you mostly talk about guys/boys gamers so i had to question .

  29. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    “Research specific to video games shows largely positive effects from high engagement.”

    It’s important to include the word “engagement” in the same sentence as “games” when it concerns learning. Gamification is a fairly recent buzzword in business. After doing a minimal amount of reading, I wonder if there isn’t anything that can be made into a game. The following article makes the point that social, learning, and incentive are important elements to engage someone in an activity – .
    I think it comes down to this – no matter what you’re doing for whatever reason, the most important thing is to know why you’re doing it and how it’s benefiting you or someone else. The funny thing is that I don’t play video games. It feels as if I’m playing by someone else’s too contrived and confining rules. I like to design and play “games” as I proceed to a solution or goal.

  30. bella
    bella says:

    I noticed that people that play computer games that required fast reflexes actually made them react faster in emergency situations, especially when driving a car

  31. James Lord
    James Lord says:

    That’s true. Kids who play video games do better as adults. Now-a-days some video games are educating the kids in some kilss like math, English & science apart from the entertaining. I’m really happy to know that my kids & nephews getting improved on their skills with the help of playing online games! Sites they follow, virtual world games, Cool math games

  32. jacobdollin
    jacobdollin says:

    Video games are indeed fun for kids. They provide many amazing features that can make your kids play for hours. Researches shows that video games are good for kids.

  33. Renato Ortega
    Renato Ortega says:

    I honestly agree with you.I was born a gamer since when I first picked up a GameCube controller I was two.Now that I think about it gaming keeps kids way more informed.Here is an example, a teacher asks what we’re the primary weapons in sieges during 1567 a chivalry gamer would easily say knights would ride in with maces as the pikemen tried to stab their horses then the light infantry would roll in with longbow men covering their entrance.A non gamer would have no idea unless that child was interested In the subject,See my point?

  34. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    This is very simple. I am in now way interested in what the ‘science’ says concerning video games, not least because it is a very recent phenomenon and as such cannot possibly comment on how these children will behave as adults. I speak only from personal experience – the gamers i know are detached from reality…all of them. No more or less, however, than people who chose to spend their free time sat in front of T.V. We are being raised in a culture who wishes us to disconnect while our leaders carry out atrocious acts against us, slowly stripping our rights and whatever culture we have left. Put simply, there is a lifetimes worth of learning and constant unravelling of our world which can, in the most part, only be done through books. Games are designed to titillate and books simply cannot compete. Gaming teaches children (and adults) how to forget (so much so that many forget their families), how to be lazy if a thing is not instantly gratifying and that it is acceptable to spend most of one’s life not in a state of learning but in a state of entertainment. Parents will spend a good deal of time desperately trying to justify their child spending hours plugged in – convincing themselves that they’re kids aren’t just addling their brains during a time of development but that they will in fact become the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates or some other creative genius because they can push buttons really fast…we all know the truth – parent’s want a quiet life and will manufacture all kinds of self-justifying tricks to appease themselves. Also, I do not buy the rhetoric from the ‘child-led’ school of thought. Imagine we are plants. A plant who is sprayed with toxins cannot choose to limit the exposure. It can, perhaps mitigate some of the effects but it is built to absorb, to interact with its environment – that is how it survives! Humans aren’t much different. If we do anything well it is absorb – especially children. Our minds can pick up skills ridiculously quickly, new thoughts, new tastes etc. Life forms are designed to interact – that is how we know our world. We do not meter our experiences against what is best for us. Clearly not or else we would chose not to consume foods that are clearly poisonous to us and are destroying our bodies. Can we turn off our noses when an unpleasant smell moves through a room? An unpleasant food ingested? No. We take it in and live with it, some of us (for whatever reason) seem able to wake up periodically and move away from whatever may be harming us. The majority do not. I see a parent’s job as one entirely of nourishment. From infancy until they become independent our job is to build them up – body and mind. Would a parent allow their child to chose their dinner each night? we’d be eating jelly beans and kinder eggs! So why would you willingly create an environment in which they’re free to chose something that is designed to be appealing, is hopelessly addictive but which is stifling the natural born desire to learn and be accomplished? Its like filling the house full of sweets and saying ‘go help yourselves’. We’re hard wired to seek out sweet things…but modern sugar is poison.

    • Lisa
      Lisa says:

      Also, I appreciate how its convincing to view educational games as something positive – and perhaps they are but I can’t help but gripe at the notion that everything must come in colourful paper, tied up in ribbons. What affect does it have on our children to always be learning through entertainment? Its almost a sin these days for a child to learn simply through determination or discipline or for an end goal. Maths must jump at us, made exciting through some idiotic character and science, geography, language etc. cannot stand on its own worth – it needs a theme tune and an animated narrator to make it stimulating. I’d sooner my kids learnt maths in the most simple of forms, the most ordinary way. If they discover its natural beauty then that’s great – if not, who cares? They’ll find something else. The question we need to be asking ourselves is what are we education our children for? So that their minds are filled with arbitrary facts? If yes then great! get our the educational games! Or is it to cultivate a desire to seek out knowledge or to persevere until we have mastered a skill?

  35. Betsy Hill
    Betsy Hill says:

    The effect of video games, like all other experience, boils down to a simple principle: Our brains become what our brains do. Of course that principle means that the actual effects of video games are complex. The scientific research supports some positive effects from video games, even from First Person Shooter games — including reaction time and the ability to quickly distinguish small changes in the environment. It also makes it very clear that there are some negative effects — increases in aggressive behavior ( and increases in ADHD symptoms (actually a bidirectional relationship). It is important to remember that most video games are not developed with specific learning outcomes in mind — they are all about story line and game play. There are, however, digital game-based programs (BrainWare Safari, Skate Kids, and Ramps to Reading are examples) that use video-game technology to develop cognitive skills essential in the learning process (attention, sequential processing, working memory, etc.). There is a lot of really good scientific research coming out on these — well worth getting familiar with (see, for example,

  36. Evan
    Evan says:

    I am thirteen years old. I love video games I try to play them whenever I can. But I also read A LOT. People my say I am “addicted”. In reality it has helped me a lot. I used to be at the bottom for fitness. now I am one the fasetes people in my class and my reflexes are amazing. My favorite game is doge ball. I can take in all the people see which ones have a ball how many how close they are and if they are a threat or not in seconds. I have ball come my way I can block it way before it is about to hit home, and I can also dodge like nobody’s business. I am much more creative and active socially from when I started playing video games. I have much more to say as well but being in a moble device limits how much i can type. But my point is the affects video games have had on me are amazing. I went from being the worst at sports and being shy to being some of the best at sports and being very outgoing. For those who said you hav never seen an addicted gamer who also is immersed in books and can’t stop reading, I am the perfect balance. I find much enjoyment and I profit from both. Man, I really do want to type more but I’m afraid i have to end here.

  37. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    From a 33 year old father who grew up an avid gamer from 6yo-21yo, turns out that I’m not violent, have a pretty good job in computing and enjoy outdoor sports.

    I got into video games at the age of 6 on the commodore 64 because, well, I grew up in a rural area with no neighbours and after most of the day playing outside, I needed something challenging intellectually. School was too “boring”, because as the article says, we were “forced” to do it. However, video games made me free to explore new worlds, learn a new language (English), economy and perseverance.

    I would say this however, not all games are created equal. You can’t compare Startcraft (strategy) to Doom (fps), that would be analogous to comparing a healthy meal with fast food.

    The best games to build decent intellectual skills are adventure and strategy ones. FPS are mostly good at improving reaction time and short term planning — say something that would be useful to drive a car for instance.

    So done in moderation, if the child is having fun, I think they’re great tools. Remember, the point of life is having fun, not studying hard to get good marks to get a good job and end up miserable for trying to please everyone else than yourself.


  38. Emalynn
    Emalynn says:

    Could someone explain something to me? I want an honest and thoughtful answer to this with possibly multiple views:
    My friend is as much into gaming as I am, we both play the same games for hours at a time, but she recently was caught by her mother “not socializing” and being the person with the camera taking a picture of her crush and his friends so her mother grounded her from everything, gave her an hour of any type of screentime and makes her talk to people in the streets for at least another hour each day so she can learn to “socialize”. Is this a genuine way of parenting a child or is it just torture?
    We’re both very introverted, only take comfort in immediate family and each other (we both started at a new school on the same day and only had each other to rely on for years).

  39. yazan sakran
    yazan sakran says:

    In general, i dont think that anyone under 14 should play anything other than minecraft. This may bo a shocker to anyone whos not a gamer but none of you know what your talking about, gaming is mainly a social outlet. Try to play a fps alone and you would understand the pointlessness, the lack of “i can pawn you”, the feeling of social boardom. The truth about gaming is that it emerses you in adventure like reading and allows you to talk to people you know or new people you would never have known. Noone pays attention to the violence, its just fun.

  40. theusual
    theusual says:

    I played video games a lot as a child. I remember for an 8th grade project a teacher gave us a list of things that we needed to make happen all from 1 action(Light a match, raise a flag, push a ball 10 feet, etc) We had 1 hour a day for a whole week to work on the project. I finished the project the 2nd day, a whole day day before anyone else did. Only 1/4 of the class ended up accomplishing the task. I give full credit to the problem solving skills I learned from mystery solving computer and Nintendo games. I am now a college graduate earning 6-figures. BUUUUUUUUUT, I know a lot of smart people that don’t finish college or cannot hold a job because of their love for video games. Teach your kids to enjoy lots of things. They need balance. Over indulgence in most anything is a bad thing. Let them play games that have an end. MMORPG’s are an alternate reality that never end, and from personal experience, offer very little intense problem solving, and mostly just suck up time.

    • Paul
      Paul says:

      I completely agree, I played a lot of adventure games as a kid, you know the ones with a lot of text and problem solving but I found that the fast paced, aggressive games often just made me more aggressive rather than alleviating that aggression. Psychological research (not the stuff that Penelope is quoting funded by games companies) shows that violent video games and television increase aggression (Silvern & Williamson, 1984) especially in males (Barthelow & Anderson, 2002). I agree with theusual as well on the MMORPG thing, don’t let your kids near them, they are time suckers and have no end and all they do is provide an alternate reality where they *believe* they are solving their problems but nothing they actually do has *any* impact on the real world. It just take time away from family, socialising, exercise, tree climbing and kicking the footy outside with their mates. Kids need real experiences where they get real scabs on their knees and real splinters in their fingers, not all this screen based rubbish.

    • Paul
      Paul says:

      I must say more on this, you are so mistaken Penelope! The surgeons only did better because the skill (using the joystick) in the video game was very similar to the equipment the surgeon uses every day (and, by the way the title says ‘May’). You say ‘data gathering, analysis and collaboration’ are somehow learned through video games? Data gathering is something you do whenever you walk outside and look at things! Analysis and collaboration is what you do when you think and talk about what you do together and, possibly, write it down! How is this facilitated any better through a computer game than it is by hanging out with your friends in the park playing ball or in a skate park? The best thing for kids to learn, is for parents to go out with them and show them the world, rather than sitting them in front of a screen while they sit in front of their own screens. I’m not saying computer games are bad, I just think your emphasis on them as learning tools are misplaced. There are some great educational games out there, but please lets not make these outrageous and highly biased claims about how effective they are for learning. They are great for learning a very narrow range of skills where the technology used is similar to that used in the game (like flight simulators, maths or spelling games) but to claim that computer games generally help kids problem solve is blatantly false. Computer games, generally, make kids good at playing computer games, thats it! Kids need good role models in other children and adults and they need to be supervised intelligently. To put the onus of “education” on a machine is to drop your responsibility as a parent.

      • Shirley
        Shirley says:

        The activities you cite as being valid opportunities to gather data and analyze it are events that happen in virtual-reality, in-game scenarios all the time. It may be that you are not taking into account the incredibly diverse and often extremely complex video game worlds that are available to children, many of which involve high level decision-making opportunities that most people would not have access to, especially not before reaching adulthood. I highly encourage you to research video games that exist, including but not limited to the Sims, World of Warcraft, any of the Elder Scrolls series, Portal, and other strategy-based or “sandbox” games. These games heavily emphasize logical reasoning, math, and physics principles, while instilling the idea that cooperation and social skills are essential in accomplishing tasks.

        As for good role models, children absolutely need these. As for supplementing real world experiences with video game characters, this is no different than idolizing a favorite book character or movie icon. Children will look up to characters in media all the time, except with video games, they play a role in shaping their own hero’s attributes.

        • Paul
          Paul says:

          Thanks Shirley, I appreciate your comment and I have played the Elder Scrolls (Oblivion).

          I’ve also played GTA 3 and GTA San Andreas. They are all very engaging and highly addictive.

          Most of the game play centres around ‘fetch and deliver’ style problems (find this and bring it to this person so that you can do this’, ‘kill this person because they’re going to kill that person’ etc.) I don’t see how “logical reasoning, math, and physics principles” factor in these games other than that if you jump you fall back to the ground (that’s called gravity)?

          Much of the time in Oblivion is spent walking around in a ‘virtual world’ trying to find things (like herbs) that you could (and I do) grow in my own garden and actually feel and smell.

          I again *must* emphasise that what gamers are drawn to are the rewards system and eye-candy which is the same psychological technique used by gambling machines to make people keep paying and playing (I know this because I have played them and I have been addicted to them). To try and draw a line between these sort of psychological manipulation techniques and calling it education is a BIG mistake.

          What games could teach us is that kids like rewards and a feeling of achievement, so this really needs to be modelled in our teaching. This does not mean we sit them in front of a game for 4-5 hours a day!

          Having said all this, if you can realistically keep them to 1/2 an hour a day max, there is no issue, but some of the missions in Oblivion for example can take over an hour and the game is *deliberately* designed to draw you in for many hours.

  41. Jamie
    Jamie says:

    Hi Penelope, from reading the article I’m struggling to determine if this is an opinion you have formed by bringing together several unrelated findings from different studies, or if this is actually scientifically grounded research you have conducted and spiced it up in to an article. If you have published a scientific paper on this (or even if the paper is not published for that matter) I would be very interested to observe the paper in full and the statistics there in. Do you have a paper to share? Thanks!

  42. Marc
    Marc says:

    Thankyou for solidifiing my suspicion that games are good for kids development,i myself was not a very academic child but school was the best place for me due to a turbulent homelife,i do not have this opinion for my youngest children.
    We decided to pull the youngest 2 out of school after many problems with the headteacher and my sons regular illnesses due to stress,since we pulled him out he has responded very well and is now learning quicker and is alot happier and healthier,now to my point,he and my daughter play games such as minecraft,and little big planet regularly it helps with many aspects such as planning,socialisation,sharing and caring organisation of priorities aswell as timekeeping and meeting deadlines,amongst other things,but i have made an observation,i personally play Evony (mmorpg) this game is brilliant for teaching math to say the least,it involves working percentages,ratios,and constantly tweaking numbers to beat other numbers.
    I am not very good at explaining these things by text but would recommend anyone starting an account to use with their child,obviously it is a world where young and old play so kids would need to be made aware of the dangers of chatting to people just as we would warn them of talking to strangers outside the house,and to not believe everything people tell them.
    My own math skills have developed hugely in the 3 years i have played Evony,and in my time i have played with younger members who more often than not do not succeed to as high a level as adult players but that is mainly because mum or dad will only let them have an hour or so and mum and dad decide when an item can be bought wheras an adult will just click and buy, the ones that are allowed more time do well and are as enthusiastic and engaging as adult members,and sometimes they have better things to talk about too i might add.
    I am personally going to donate my older account to my children to help with their number skills as they decide how many archers with an attack of X points will defeat a defence wall of X points etc…i hope i havent wandered to far from my point that games are better for kids than we ever could have expected or imagined back in the days of the Atari, Commodore 64 and spectrum computer game systems
    thank you Penelope your work is very interesting and is helping me keep my focus on my kids learning as each and everyday i think of less reasons for them to be in school and more for them to be out.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      They usually play for about four or five hours a day. It varies. If there are other things that are more interesting to them, then they play fewer hours of video games.


  43. James
    James says:

    I play World of Warcraft and Counter Strike Global Offensive quite a lot but I still don’t have to be on there and miss my breakfast, lunch and pretty much my dinner. I can get everything done in the day and then have an hour or two on the computer. It proves that your efficient and that your not addicted

  44. Lilly
    Lilly says:

    I was happy when I read the title of this article and happily read through it…however when I read through the comments I was completely disappointing. People who don’t play video games and who think that fps games are wrong and could make someone a serial killer is completely wrong. Game don’t make people kill. And you people need to get your heads around that fact.

    I play first person shooter games, I am a 17 year old girl and I want to be a doctor when I get out of Uni. I don’t want to kill anyone and don’t plan to ever. I am just an average girl who finds pleasure in playing video games just like everyone else around you who plays video games. I started playing video games when I was 4 years old. Want to know what my first game ever was? Tomb Raider. That is right a girl who shoots things. Have I plotted someones death? Tried to kill people? No. I merely enjoyed the game and thus my love of fps games and really any game evolved. Does this make me a ticking time bomb? No!

    All of your comments really affected what I got out of that article. You all need to stop being biased and understand how it all works before you say those kinds of things. FPS games do not make anyone who plays them more of a psycho. That is like saying, people who play angry birds are going to grow up killing birds because they throw them at buildings. Or even saying people who play the Sims and create a lot of issues in the town like breaking people up are going to become home wreckers when they are older. See how stupid it sounds?

    Studies actually show that psychotic people who played fps games and the likes reduced the chances of actually going out and killing people in the real world than those who didn’t as they took out all their stress on a silly little game on their screen.

    So before you start saying that people who play fps games are just learning ways to kill people. Think again. They could actually be learning life skills. Say a war starts…who is going to be able to pick up and gun and save their families and try and defend their country? The every day working man who goes to the office and home again? Or the people who have learnt these skills from FPS games?

  45. Susan
    Susan says:

    I just found your sight through The Pioneer Woman’s homeschooling site (and Heather). You make some interesting points that have me thinking and considering. I would like to share something though regarding my sons who spend little time with video games but alot of time doing a variety of activities through Boy Scouts and church and serving and mission trips, etc. Both of my sons needed some speech therapy and their therapist raved about my sons to me because they shared such vivid, active, lively conversation with her and she shared that she loves those conversations because her other therapy students only share the latest games they are playing, etc. and have little communication skills otherwise. In no way am I saying one way is best over another but it really affirmed for me at the time that my boys had garnered such experience for life experience that they might have missed if they’d only been playing video games.

  46. rct3fan24
    rct3fan24 says:

    Those kids in the pictures are breaking the first rule of owning a laptop: Don’t leave them running on your bed. >_<

  47. kristin @ petal and thorn
    kristin @ petal and thorn says:

    is anyone else worried about the biological effects of technology on growing children? EMF’s and inflammation, artificial light (especially at night) and messed up sleep and hormone levels? it freaks me out big time.

  48. Sylvia
    Sylvia says:

    Young kids playing computer games all the time? Sooooooooooooo sad. And their lazy parents making themselves feel better by thinking that they are bringing up little geniuses… While agreeing that the video games are not evil I still believe that children need to learn to communicate, explore and live in the REAL world to be able to enjoy the REAL things in adulthood.

  49. Venus
    Venus says:

    Tommy, I’m not sure where your response went, but you are not %100 accurate. You are claiming using buttons on a control while watching the actions on a screen is not hand eye coordination, but it is a form of hand eye coordination. This inaccuracy is because you are using an incorrect definition of hand eye coordination. Yes the movements you use in sports while looking at what you are doing is hand eye coordination but so is writing, controlling a game remote, or using a mouse to control a cursor on a screen. This is what I pulled from a website for defining hand eye coordination: “Hand-eye coordination is the ability of the vision system to coordinate the information received through the eyes to control, guide, and direct the hands in the accomplishment of a given task, such as handwriting or catching a ball. Hand-eye coordination uses the eyes to direct attention and the hands to execute a task.”

  50. Jean
    Jean says:

    As a gamer, I allow myself to give you an advice.
    Video games are extremely stimulating and propably very good for your brain, but:
    Video games fill your urge for challenge and accomplishment immediatly without you to actually have any effect on the world.

    A little bit like birth control allows you to fill your urge for connecting intimately with someone without creating a huge family.

    Now, maybe with 8 billions humans it may be a good thing that people don’t have 9 childrens anymore.

    And for the same reasons, it’s maybe good that a lot of people fill their urge in video game while only pushing paper in the real world (this is in my opinion, why their are so few violent activist in the western world, they are occupied with video games).

    But in the same way that I feel like hacking life when I use a condom (i get all the good hormones without a chance of propagating life), I feel like hacking history (mmm, maybe not the right word), when I invade Poland in a video game instead of doing it in the real world.

    Because if evolution is real, what we feel urges to do, is what allowed us to exist, and therefor probably what we should do.

    So my advice, you should make sure that your kids get good enough at something else, so that they can do it at a level at which they get more brain stimulation from it than they would get from video games. But you seem to be doing this already.

    • Hiro
      Hiro says:

      Wait, I’m sorry. You went from “I’m a gamer” to “I have good hormones”.

      …I don’t have anything intellectual to say about this topic honestly. I’m just kind of curious why your argument about gaming included condoms.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      This is actually really good advice, Jean. I get it.

      I think what you’re saying is that the problem with video games is the immediate feedback and the rush of accomplishment. And you’re saying that if a kid is really good at something else in life than the expertise in that particular thing will be as big a draw as the video game.

      This is an incredibly interesting idea: Kids have relatively little access to the feeling of being great at something. It takes a lot of parental intervention to help a kid be great at something –driving all over the place, buying supplies, finding teachers, having vision for a learning curve, etc. Video games are set up so a kid can get that expertise on their own.

      If parents don’t want to have a kid addicted to video games then give the kid something else that’s a path to major accomplishment in their life. Then they’ll know they can get that feeling from more than just a single activity.


      • Jean
        Jean says:


        It’s not even the level you need to reach which is a problem, but the setting in which you do it.
        A video games always tells you what to accomplish, in the real world you need to figured out by yourself.
        And for this reason, video games are a very confortable escape.

        Thank you for the validation.

  51. Christi
    Christi says:

    This seems like a low quality post created only to justify your choices for your boys.

    Every person/child is different and just because your children are doing well with a no limit policy doesn’t mean all will. I recently took my two nephews to Chicago for three days and the 11 year old didn’t want to leave the hotel room – his “choice” of what to do was always watch tv and play video games, even when the sky was the limit on what to do. He loves sports and dreams of playing in the NBA, but most of his practice is online and he is very lazy when it comes to real life practice. He is an average player (although physically built for bball). This kid’s problems were not caused by unlimited screen time, but are exasperated by it.

    As a child, I grew up with unlimited tv and video games and still maintained other interests, so I know it can work. I would point out that I did not have access to 100 channels, on demand, DVDs and 3 gaming systems (plus 3 game systems).

    All I’m saying is unlimited screen time is not for every child.

  52. Sebastian
    Sebastian says:

    What about RPG’s? They are not exactly “Social” as they are not mainly multiplayer, some people say that people who play RPG’s lack social skills, but I can talk to random people with ease, ask a girl out without breaking a sweat and present good speeches. So, are RPG’s the same [example of RPGs: Baldur’s Gate]

    • Zac Wise
      Zac Wise says:

      Hey! You play Baldur’s Gate too??!! I love that game! And, no, I don’t believe that it has any difference.

  53. Meghon
    Meghon says:

    Very interesting. How much time to allow computer games is something I struggle with in regards to my son (not so much an issue with his older sister). I no longer set strict time limits, but rather help encourage him to find balance by encouraging other non-screen gaming activities so he appreciates both. That is not to say that I let him play all day long. Furthermore, he has SPD, and I think computer gaming is a world that makes more sense to him — less confusing to navigate than certain social situations that are difficult for him.

  54. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    Can Video Games Make You Smarter? That’s the title of the video released by AsapSCIENCE on their YouTube channel. The date of the video is Jan. 19, 2014. The references to their research cited in the video are listed directly under the video when the “show more” link is pressed.

  55. andrew hibberd
    andrew hibberd says:

    im 52 everything i do is a game
    and i love it all
    catching crabs,
    swimming with dolphins,
    driving on the beach
    Laying foundation stones
    studying the Dharma
    the good book and Islam

    i will be gone before i know it so i better
    enjoy it while im here

  56. Cardona C.
    Cardona C. says:

    Penelope, what a great post and threat!

    I feel obligated to comment on this post because of the great subject and great contributions.

    I have three kids, now grown up, and although each one very different, they grew up with an open door to explore as much as their curiosity would drive them to.
    Is possible that an underlying theme I may have had in their upbringing was to encourage “moderation”. Anything in extremes tends to a have negative result. I have known kids who had their nose in a book all day long… admirable? No, not if it deprives them from developing the needed social skills to cope in daily life.

    My kids all went through periods of time when they red hours at a time, when they parked themselves in front of a computer game for hours or sat and watched Dr Who episodes a whole weekend.

    I strongly believe that as parents is our job to try to guide the learning experience and to encourage above all a sense of curiosity (never leave a black box unopened). With my kids eventually the “obsessing” over anything would become boring and then they would move on to the next “learning” experience.

    I believe that if we misunderstand our role as parents as a “rule” maker; we will wind up with rule followers with no creativity or rebels that feel that they need to brake rules in order to be free.

    BTW, one of my kids today is a college professor, the other one moved to Japan and started a dance studio and is now fluent in three languages, and the youngest is a director of technology development for color management software. Also, curiously the youngest is the one that obsessed the most with video games. (no surprise he would wind up in software development).

    I think is about balance, moderation and encouragement in the right areas! Including the right blend of video games and the rest of life’s interest!

  57. Dylan
    Dylan says:

    As an ex-professional video gamer with much academic experience I can attest that gaming has correlated with negative outcomes in both my own personal goals and development.

    I have a first rate aptitude in many sport (e-sport and general sports) related skills and talents but moving into any academic or social career path I realize that these skills do not serve me well what so ever.

    I only heed all to take caution to this advice…
    If your child looses out on opportunity in the ‘real world’ as a result of gaming it’s a definite sign to make a change.

  58. Bernadette
    Bernadette says:

    I am concerned that my sophomore son plays too much games, about 4-6 hours during the week and up to 10 hours on the weekends and that there is no balance in his life. He says he is a professional gamer and they play tournaments that are sponsored for money in groups. I think one needs a balance. He says his grades are good and I should not worry, but I am concerned as there are so many other aspects to be healthy, like being social, more exercise, being a club with real kids and not this virtual world. I have devised a plan that he first comply with all his hmwk; chores; social with family and then 2 hrs a day and 3-4 hrs on the weekend. Let me know your thoughts – concerned parent.

  59. Tyler Stout
    Tyler Stout says:

    Hllo to all theparents that are out there right now with children that constently play video games. I am a profestional mlg video game player and i make 10,000-20,000 dollars a week. kindahard to belive but yeah. anyway i have been playing video games since i got my first nintendo 64 and thought you needed 3 hands to play it lol. i am extreamly good with computers and am serving im my local militia. my hand eye cordination is unbelievable. my first time shooting a gun and i never missed the target. anyway, i got home schooled when i was 16 and joined the militia, then i droped out of school when i was 17. i got my ged when i was 19 and went to collage for computer technolagy. now i have a 2 story house out in the woods, have a wife 2 daughters and a son, and we always have food in the house. i give 1,000 dollars to cherity every week. thats what i do for a liveing. i have played video games my entire life and im doing perfictly fine. i just depends on what your kids want to do is how long it will take then to get grasps on doing it. dont push them, the more you do that the less they want to do what they want to do. believe me it happened to my brother. thanks everybody for reading this. take care.

  60. Trevor
    Trevor says:

    Now if only I could work up the courage to show my mom this. She recently went on a rampage about video games and unsociality and stuff like that, it started the day after my birthday party, and my friend came over to spend the night, we both love video games a lot. After Sam left, mom was yelling at me, saying”your not gonna be like him! Your not just gonna sit there and play games all day” which I don’t, if you’re wondering. I also read a lot. Since there were a ton of people at my party, Sam was shy, he went inside until some left. So now it’s 1 hour a day for me… And I finish homework really fast, some say I’m a genius, so I have nothing to do the rest of the time, which is about 5 hours

  61. Abdulaziz
    Abdulaziz says:

    My Son 6 year old saved princess peach from Bowser. This is Super Mario Bros. Wii version.
    The fact is, myself being a good gamer during my childhood days couldn’t play most of the levels.

    So skills and learning is one thing but what is the practical knowledge later is the question. I think successful people have played specific game types like those that are creative, has puzzles, has mystery, has strategy and game plan.

    Improves, reaction times, memory skills, planning ability and most importantly develops patience.

    RPG games improves reading….

    But some games like shooting, killing, driving are useless…. No learning …………

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