Children who spent an above average time playing video games increased their intelligence more than the average, claims a study.
Children are spending more and more time in front of screens. How this affects their health and whether it has a positive or negative impact on their cognitive abilities are hotly debated.
But the results, published in the journal Scientific Reports, showed that those who played more games, than the average, increased their intelligence between the two measurements by approximately 2.5 IQ points more than the average. No significant effect was observed, positive or negative, of TV watching or social media.
“We didn’t examine the effects of screen behaviour on physical activity, sleep, wellbeing or school performance, so we can’t say anything about that,” said Torkel Klingberg, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the Department of Neuroscience at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden.
“But our results support the claim that screen time generally doesn’t impair children’s cognitive abilities, and that playing video games can actually help boost intelligence. This is consistent with several experimental studies of video-game playing,” Klingberg added.
For the study, researchers at Karolinska along with those in Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam specifically studied the link between screen habits and intelligence over time in over 9,000 boys and girls aged nine or ten, in the US. Just over 5,000 of the children were followed up after two years.
On average, the children spent 2.5 hours a day watching TV, half an hour on social media, and 1 hour playing video games.
The team noted that the results are also in line with recent research showing that intelligence is not a constant, but a quality that is influenced by environmental factors.
“We’ll now be studying the effects of other environmental factors and how the cognitive effects relate to childhood brain development,” Klingberg said.
One limitation of the study is that it only covered US children and did not differentiate between different types of video games, which makes the results difficult to transfer to children in other countries with other gaming habits. There was also a risk of reporting error since screen time and habits were self-rated.