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Can Video Games Actually Make Kids Smarter?

November 10, 2022

As parents move to limit screen time and gaming, new research suggests that video games might actually "boost" players’ brains. Research sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and National Institute on Drug Abuse, revealed that kids playing video games for three or more hours a day experience increased cognitive brain functions and better test scores. More than 2,000 players were studied. The results were recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Society. “Separate research has already shown that video games, social media and digital technology can improve the mental health of youth. This is a new development that merits more investigation,” said Paul Weigle, MD, a psychiatrist at Natchaug Hospital and national expert on video gaming. “Yet, there needs to be balance because multiple studies have shown that more than three hours of gaming a day have been related to increased risk of depression, anxiety and ADHD.” > Connect with the Behavioral Health Network

Some questions remain

More research is required, Dr. Weigle added, because the study leaves some questions up in the air, including:
  • Does gaming improve a child’s cognition or are children with increased cognitive abilities playing more video games?
  • Do gamers experience consistent neurocognitive performance?
  • What types of games lend more cognitive benefits?
“The news is interesting and encouraging, but I wouldn’t be expanding limits on gaming any time soon,” Dr. Weigle said. “There are definitely benefits to playing, though.” > Want more health news? Text StartHere to 85209 to sign up for text alerts

Mental health impact

Research shows that gaming and social media can help parents and providers reach teens in distress and engage them in needed mental health treatment. Specific uses of digital technology can improve behavioral health outcomes and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Moderation, however, remains key, Dr. Weigle said. “The relationship between gaming and mental health is complex and depends on a number of factors, such as how and when the individual games and their motivation for doing so,” he said. “In moderation, age-appropriate gaming is typically a benign and enjoyable pastime. However, it’s best to play video games in moderation as part of a healthy daily schedule, allowing sufficient time for sleep, schoolwork, socialization, exercise and family time.”