What place should games have in education? Can a game foster true learning or is it at best a supplement? And how much game time should kids have? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents limit screen time (TV and video games) to no more than two hours, and that exceeding these recommendations can be a contributing factor to attention problems like ADHD. New research suggests however, that games can actually be beneficial to both children and adults, and that kids should spend more time playing, not less.
Interestingly, the educational benefits of video games are not limited only to those titles labeled “educational”, but also include mainstream games. Research conducted by Cheryl Olson, ScD of Harvard Medical School found that playing games like Legend of Zelda and Bakugan can encourage planning, problem-solving, decision-making, creativity and self-expression. Games like Age of Empires and Civilization can encourage a child’s interest in history, geography, and international relations, especially if a parent assists in expanding on the themes of the game with related resources like museums, books, and websites.
While past studies have linked video games to the childhood obesity epidemic, new research says otherwise, that gaming can in fact encourage kids to get off the couch and exercise. These benefits aren’t limited to motion-sensing games like PBS’s educational movement games, or exercise games like Wii Fit and Dance Central 2. Olson’s research found that simply playing a realistic sports game, like football, basketball, or skateboarding, can actually lead to “increased time spent playing sports and exercising in real life.”