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Playing video games may boost kids' intelligence, study finds

Experts didn’t observe the same trend for all forms of screen time

Teen boy playing video games
Photo (c) Carol Yepes - Getty Images
While many parents worry about the mental and physical health risks associated with kids’ screen time, a new study conducted by researchers from the Karolinska Institute may make some parents feel better about their kids playing video games. 

According to the findings, kids who spend a lot of time playing video games may also have higher intelligence levels. 

“We didn’t examine the effects of screen behavior on physical activity, sleep, well-being, or school performance, so we can’t say anything about that,” said researcher Torkel Klingberg. “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.” 

Positive effects of video games

For the study, the researchers analyzed data from nearly 10,000 children enrolled in the ABCD study in the U.S. At the start of the study, parents answered questions about how often their children were in front of screens using social media, watching TV, and playing video games. The children also completed several different assessments to measure intelligence. The team then followed up with the children over the course of two years to measure changes over time. 

The study showed that the kids involved in the study spent an average of an hour playing video games each day. However, kids who surpassed that were also likely to have higher IQs. Playing video games for an hour or more every day was linked with raising IQ scores by as many as 2.5 points. 

It’s important to note that this same trend wasn’t observed for the other forms of screen time, including watching TV or being on social media. 

While the team plans to do more work in this area to better understand what other influences can affect kids’ intelligence, these findings highlight one way that kids can benefit from playing video games. 

“We’ll now be studying the effects of other environmental factors and how the cognitive effects relate to childhood brain development,” Klingberg said. 

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