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

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

Since the beginning of the 21stth century, the time spent behind a screen has increased. Children today are therefore more influenced by digital media. What impact do these media have on children? A team of researchers gained access to the ABCD study (Teenage brain cognitive development) to find answers. This research collected data on brain development in more than 11,500 children during their teenage years.

How to assess the effect of screens on children and adolescents?

Based on these data, the researchers began a longitudinal analysis (study over time) that compared the cognitive development of the infants involved. Their goal? Determine the impact on IQ of hours spent watching television or videos, scrolling on 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 years. First, they looked at the average time in front of screens. It was an hour for video games and two and a half hours for TV and social networks, respectively.

Two years later, the children were again questioned about their behavior. The researchers also took the opportunity to test their cognitive abilities. How do you rate them? Several criteria are taken into account. For example, reading comprehension, visual-spatial processing or memory. Behavioral abilities such as flexibility, perseverance or self-control were also assessed.

What is the real impact 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 know the influence of video games, researchers therefore also measure these variables.

Until now, most studies on the impact of digital media on children and adolescents have not taken these variables into account. It was therefore complicated to establish cause and effect relationships between media consumption and cognitive abilities or behaviors.

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

Video games would cause a 2.5 point increase in IQ

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 link between young people’s intelligence development and time spent playing video games has been established by the study. Does this also apply to social networks and television? Nix! Time spent on social media and watching television showed no positive or negative effects on cognitive development.

The researchers suggest that this is due to the passive nature used in watching television. Especially in comparison to the commitment and reflection required for video games. Nevertheless, researchers have found that when educational content is broadcast, it has a beneficial effect on children’s intelligence. Good news for those who grew up with “C’est pas Sorcier!” »

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

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

Impact of video games: can we generalize?

Of course, genetic inheritance and socioeconomic status are not the only factors that can influence the development of intelligence in young people. Physical activity, rest and sleep patterns, academic performance and many others were not taken into account. The researchers also point out that the sample size, although significant, is far from representative. Finally, it is important to note that the study focuses only on children in the United States.

While taking the results of this study and its limits with caution, it is certain that this research is innovative. On the one hand, by considering certain variables such as genetics and socioeconomic status. On the other hand, playing video games for hours challenges the idea that it is detrimental to children’s development. In fact, there is scientific literature that promotes the negative effects of video games. In any case, the present study succeeds in highlighting a positive and not insignificant correlation between intelligence and video games in the subjects analyzed.

Originally published on 23/05/2022

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