Playing video games increased children’s intelligence by 2.5 IQ points, new study finds
In today’s world, video games are only growing in popularity. In 2020, over 200 million Americans play video games in the United States alone. This means that approximately 65% of American adults play video games.
Since the 1970s, video games have been debated. Parents and child advocates have expressed concerns that violent video games can inspire young gamers to commit violent acts in real life.
However, video games are also considered beneficial for both mind and body. Action video game players had superior hand-eye coordination and visuomotor abilities compared to non-gamers. According to a recent study, playing video games may even boost your intelligence.
Researchers from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden examined the link between children’s screen habits and the growth of their cognitive abilities over time. They found that young people who spent more time than average playing video games increased their IQ more than average, but watching TV or social media had no effect. The results were published in the journal Scientific reports.
Children are spending more and more time in front of devices. There is fierce discussion about how this affects their health and whether it has a positive or negative influence on their cognitive abilities. Researchers from Karolinska Institutet and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam investigated the relationship between screen use and intellect over time for this study.
The research included more than 9,000 boys and girls from the United States. The children were nine or ten years old when they took a battery of psychological tests to assess their general cognitive ability (intelligence). Children and their parents were also asked how much time they spent watching TV and movies, playing video games and using social media.
Follow-up after two years
Just over 5,000 children were followed up after two years, after which they were asked to repeat the psychological tests. This allowed the researchers to study how the children’s performance on the tests varied from one testing session to the next and to control for individual differences in the first test. They also controlled for genetic differences that might affect intelligence and differences that might be related to parental education and income.
On average, children spent 2.5 hours a day watching TV, half an hour on social media and 1 hour playing video games. The results showed that those who played more games than average increased their intelligence between the two measures by about 2.5 IQ points more than average. No significant effect was observed, positive or negative, of watching television or social media.
“We haven’t looked at the effects of screen behavior on physical activity, sleep, well-being, or academic performance, so we can’t say anything about this,” says Torkel Klingberg, professor of cognitive neuroscience at the Department of Neuroscience at Karolinska Institutet. . “But our results support the claim that screen time does not generally impair children’s cognitive abilities and that playing video games may in fact help boost intelligence. This is consistent with several experimental studies on the video game.
Intelligence is not constant
The results are also consistent with recent research showing that intelligence is not a constant, but a quality that is influenced by environmental factors.
“We will now investigate the effects of other environmental factors and how cognitive effects relate to child brain development,” explains Torkel Klingberg.
One limitation of the study is that it only covered American children and did not distinguish between different types of video games, making the results difficult to transfer to children in other countries with other gaming habits. There was also a risk of misreporting since screen time and habits were self-reported.
The study was funded by the Swedish Research Council and the Strategic Neuroscience Research Area (StratNeuro) at the Karolinska Institutet. The researchers report no conflicts of interest.
Reference: “The impact of digital media on children’s intelligence while controlling for genetic differences in cognition and socioeconomic background” by Bruno Sauce, Magnus Liebherr, Nicholas Judd and Torkel Klingberg, May 11, 2022, Scientific reports.