Do video games really make kids smart?

A team of researchers from a prestigious organization has created a large-scale study of the link between video games and children’s intelligence. And the searches may surprise some, though we have to be careful with the interpretation.

Although it has clearly lagged behind with the evolution of this medium, there is still a superstition today that suggests that video games can be mind numbing, especially for young children. Today, researchers still disagree. Some of them believe that playing video games can make kids smarter.

This is the result of a massive study conducted on more than 5,000 children by researchers at the University of Amsterdam, the University of Dsseberg-Essen in Germany, and the prestigious Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, an institution that is part of the best medical universities. In this world.

They start by asking the kids how much time they spend each day in front of social networks, television or video games. And the first observation is without appeal. As you might expect, today’s children enjoy it Lots of digital content!

On average, these 5,000-odd children between the ages of 10 and 12 spend an average of four hours a day on these activities, two of which were video games. A period that represents a significant portion of a child’s free time at this age and which tends to increase visually. Opportunity to verify a first observation: “Today, the screen really defines childhood“, Say researchers.

It remains to be seen what the cognitive effects of all this time spent in front of the screen will be. And this is where everything gets complicated. Most of the most serious research actually suggests that it turns out to be a mixture of positive and potential negative effects. So the criteria need to be set; In this study, researchers specifically noticed the effect on intelligence.

Rarely final research

A word for which there are obviously a lot of distinct definitions that depend a lot on the context. Harvard researchers estimate that 8; Considering this is a much more general research paper there are more than 70. In the light of this study on video games, researchers have defined it. “Ability to learn effectively, think logically, understand complex concepts and adapt to new situations

To compare the results of their young guinea pigs, it was necessary to find a score. To do this, they measured their performance in five cognitive tasks that they believed were directly representative of intelligence.

Two of these works were based on reading comprehension and vocabulary. One focuses on attention and “executive function”, which includes short-term memory or self-control. The last two have tested their ability to identify themselves in space and learn a job during the trial.

Note that researchers are not the first to develop such a protocol. Unfortunately, the results have often been very uncertain. On the other hand, they are the first to integrate both genetic and socio-economic factors on a large scale in such studies; A method that seems much more relevant and therefore promising.

However, these are very important elements, because if they are ignored, they can lead to huge argument bias. “For example, a child born with a specific gene may be more likely to watch TV, but still have a learning disability.”, The researchers explained in their press release.

The genetic lottery is a major player in any psychological process”, They insist. “And so far, the high cost of genomic analysis has made it difficult to integrate it into research.However, this restriction has been significantly reduced in recent years. The advancement of this technology has thus opened the door to more advanced work. They were able to adjust their sample so that it was representative of the American population in terms of gender, ethnicity and socio-economic status.

This work shows that there is a statistical link between video games and cognitive development. Ben White – Unsplash

A very real statistical relationship.

And the results may surprise some. First, they found that the intelligence scores of children who spend the most time in front of TV and social networks have lower-than-average IQs. On the other hand, they found no significant difference between 10-year-olds who regularly played video games and those who did not.

And even after two years of follow-up, the picture is significantly different. First, the researchers found that the TV and social media followers mentioned above were no less intelligent than others after this period. It suggests that the hours spent in front of Instagram and the like did not make them smarter, nor did it make them statistically indifferent.

They also saw a significant difference towards the big players. Statistically, those who have passedAnd more time in front of video games There were also those presentations The greatest cognitive progress At the end of this period. For researchers, it seems so Mathematically demonstrable causal relationship Between the practice of video games and the development of intelligence.

Emily Wade – Unsplash

… But also undeniable limits

So can we conclude that video games are a preferred medium for training small talents of the future? Well that’s it Much more complicated than that. On the one hand, it is actually a rigorous study conducted on a large sample by researchers from a reputable institution capable of this subject.

But on the other hand, though researchers have made Great systematic effort to eliminate a set of biases Genetic and socio-economic, the study included nonetheless Significant limits. For example, researchers emphasize that their study did not take into account other potentially important psychological parameters. They specifically mention Sleep quality, mental health or physical exerciseThere are many factors that can weigh heavily on the final result.

Another very important limitation of the research is that the researchers did not have the required information Differences between different programs, different social platforms or different types of video games. For example, this work does not explain how practicing a game like Fortnite affects cognitive development more than practicing a racing or logic game. This is a shame, because other works (see here or here) strongly suggest that the effect on knowledge depends directly on the type of game and its complexity.

Clearly, video games cannot replace physical activity, substitute quality sleep, or limit the effects of a bad diet. Chris Benson – Unsplash

Strong conclusions, but beware of explanations

So in the end, does video games make kids smarter? Based on this information, the answer is practically yes. Researchers have statistically confirmed that their practice has a cognitive effect that is the worst neutral and the best positive. Don’t worry, video games won’t make your child terribly stupid… it can even help strengthen his or her brain.

But we also need to be aware of the subtleties of this research. There is no guarantee that a child will become very intelligent if he is allowed to play for hours on end. If the rest of life’s hygiene is poor, and especially in the case of addiction, the positive effects recorded by researchers can be completely out of the way. It can even lead to an overabundance of extremely harmful effects.

While waiting for this kind of new research to complete these already very interesting results, the conclusion is as follows: so everything questions the method and dosage. Equally!

Text of the study is available here.

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