Video games can have an unexpected impact on children’s IQ

Video games would increase children’s IQ! This is the unexpected discovery that a team of researchers came up with when analyzing data from 5,000 children in the United States. Their findings were published in the journal Scientific reports.

Since the beginning of 21th century, the time spent behind a screen has increased. Children today are therefore more influenced by digital media. What is the influence of these media on children? A team of researchers accessed the ABCD study (Cognitive development of the adolescent brain) to find the answers. This research collected data on the brain development of over 11,500 children during their adolescence.

How to evaluate the impact of screens on children and adolescents?

From these data, the researchers began a longitudinal analysis (study over time) comparing the cognitive development of the children involved. Their goal? Determine the impact on IQ of hours spent watching television or videos, browsing social networks, and playing video games.

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To determine the impact of these three activities, the researchers followed nearly 10,000 children between the ages of 9 and 10. First, they looked at the average time spent in front of screens. It was an hour for video games and two and a half hours, respectively, for television and social networks.

Two years later, the children were again questioned about their behavior. The researchers also took the opportunity to test their cognitive abilities. How to evaluate them? Several criteria are considered. For example, reading comprehension, visuospatial processing or memory. Behavioral skills such as flexibility, perseverance or self-control were also evaluated.

What is the real influence of video games on IQ?

Several criteria can weigh on a child’s IQ. Like family genetics or even the socio-economic environment in which they develop. To understand the influence of video games, researchers therefore also measure these variables.

So far, most studies on the impact of digital media on children and adolescents did not consider these variables. It was therefore difficult to establish cause and effect relationships between media consumption and cognitive abilities or behaviors.

“Digital media is very present in modern childhood, but its cognitive effects are unclear and much debated describe the authors within the study.

Video games would cause an IQ increase of 2.5 points

Two years after the first evaluation, data from 5,000 children could be followed. Those who spent more than an hour playing video games saw their IQ increase by 2.5 points. The study establishes the link between the development of adolescent intelligence and the time spent playing video games. Does this also apply to social networks and television? No ! Time spent on social media and watching TV showed no positive or negative effects on cognitive development.

Researchers suggest this is due to the passive character spent watching television. Especially in comparison with the commitment and reflection required for video games. However, the researchers found that delivering educational content has a beneficial impact on children’s intelligence. Good news for those who grew up with “C’est pas Sorcier!” “

Our findings support the claim that screen time does not generally impair children’s cognitive abilities and that playing video games can indeed help increase intelligence. “ neuroscientist and study co-author, Torkel Klingberg, of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, said in the press release.

How to explain this result? Correlative studies suggest that video games train visual processing and attention skills. Meta-analyzes also found that video game players have better executive cognitive functioning, such as verbal and spatial working memory, than non-gamers. It should be noted, however, that these studies also found negative impacts of video games on cognitive aspects.

Impact of video games: can we generalize?

Genetic inheritance and socioeconomic status are obviously not the only factors that can influence the development of intelligence in adolescents. Physical activity, rest and sleep patterns, academic performance and many others were not considered. The researchers also point out that the sample size, while sizable, is far from representative. Finally, it is important to note that the study only focuses on children in the United States.

While taking the findings of this study and its limitations with caution, it is certain that this research is groundbreaking. On the one hand, considering some variables such as genetics and socioeconomic status. On the other hand, it questions the idea that playing video games for hours is detrimental to the child’s development. There is indeed a scientific literature that advances the negative effects of video games. But in any case, the present study manages to highlight a positive and not negligible correlation between intelligence and video games in the subjects analyzed.

Originally published 05/23/2022

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