What?! Do video games really make children smarter?

A recently published study seems to indicate that children who play more video games become smarter over time. Conversely, the use of social media and listening to television did not have such an effect. Previous studies have yielded more dubious results on a possible link between playing video games and intelligence. However, if it is confirmed by future studies, the observed link could lead parents to think twice before restricting the playing time of their children.


“For our study, we have specifically interested in the effect of screen time on intelligence”, wrote two of the study authorsTorkel Klingberg and Bruno Sauce, in a story for The conversation“the ability to learn effectively, to think rationally, to understand complex ideas and to adapt to new situations.”

The authors explain that some previous studies had hinted at a possible link between screen time and intelligence. However, none of this previous work used a very large sample size, effectively adjusting for socioeconomic background, and none of the previous researchers adjusted their results for genetics.

“The novelty of our study is that we took into account the genes and the socio-economic environment, explain the two researchers. “So far, only a few studies have considered socioeconomic status (household income, parental education, and neighborhood quality), and no studies have considered genetic effects.”

Published in the journal Scientific reportsthe authors cite a pair of studies showing that intelligence can be “highly hereditary“And is therefore an essential element to take into account when testing the effects of the screen time on intelligence.

“Genes matter because intelligence is highly inherited,” they write. “If not taken into account, these factors could mask the true effect of screen time on children’s intelligence. For example, children born with certain genes could be more likely to watch television and, independently , have learning problems.

“The lottery of genetics is a major confounder in any psychological process,” the authors add, “but until recently this was difficult to account for in scientific studies due to the high costs of analyzing the genome and technological limitations”.

Now they say that the circumstances have changed.

Video games associated with superior intelligence

To conduct their study, the research team has selected, interviewed and tested “more than 5,000 children aged 10 to 12”. They also note that “our sample was representative of the United States in terms of sex, race, ethnicity and socio-economic status”.

Next, they built a battery of tests designed to measure critical areas of intelligence.

“We created an intelligence index from five tasks:” they write, “two on reading comprehension and vocabulary, one on attention and executive function (which includes working memory, flexible thinking and self-control), one assessing visual-spatial processing (such as rotating objects in your mind) and one on learning ability over multiple trials. »

After asking the children about their gaming habits, social media usage and TV habits, they were given the prepared intelligence tests.

“We found that when we first asked the child at age ten how much he played, watching videos, and socializing online were linked to below-average intelligence,” the authors write at About their initial basic IQ tests. “During this time, the game was not related to intelligence at all.”

They note that these initial results were “mostly in line” with past research. However, when they followed the children 2 years later, they found that “the game had a positive and significant effect on intelligence”.

“While children who played more video games at age ten were on average no smarter than children who did not play games, they showed the most intelligence gains after two years, in both boys and girls. “, explain the researchers. “For example, a child who was in the top 17% in terms of hours spent playing increased their IQ about 2.5 points more than the average child over two years.”

“This is proof of a beneficial causal effect of video games on intelligence,” add the authors of the study.

The same tests showed that two years later, social media had no effect on intelligence.

It initially seemed that more television was watching it could be correlated with increased intelligence during the two -year period. But, the researchers say they ultimately found “no effect when parental education was taken into account (as opposed to the broader ‘socioeconomic status’ factor). So this finding should be taken with a grain of salt.


Researchers found that games appeared to increase intelligence, but social media use and television viewing had no measurable effect. However, they note that “there is some empirical support that high-quality TV/video content, such as the Sesame Street program, has a positive effect on children’s academic performance and cognitive abilities.” But, they concede, such results “are rare”.

Perhaps the most important point to remember is that passive activities like reading social media or watching videos may have no overall effect on intelligence, whereas interactive forms of entertainment that often involve solving problems and memorization can actually be helpful to some extent. Still, the researchers note that their study was unable to account for all possible influences.

“When thinking about the implications of these findings, it’s important to keep in mind that there are many other psychological aspects that we haven’t looked at, such as mental health, sleep quality, and exercise. physics,” they write.

In the end, the study authors offer a word of caution, followed by some hope.

“Our results should not be considered as a general recommendation for all parents to authorize the game without limit,” they conclude. “But for parents embarrassed by their kids playing video games, you can now feel better knowing it’s probably making them a little smarter.”

Follow and connect with author Christopher Plain on Twitter @plain_fiction

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