Parents have long debated the impact of video games on children’s minds. Now, a new survey suggests that playing may actually improve their literacy, communication skills and overall mental well-being.
National Literacy Trust interviewed 4,626 people between the ages of 11 and 16 from across the UK for the video games survey. The interviews were conducted between November and December 2019.
More than a third (35.3%) of the children who play said they believe video games make them better readers – with the vast majority (79.4%) saying they read materials related to gaming once a month. The materials included in-game communications, reviews and books.
All that reading may also be helping players improve their writing. About 3 in 5 (62.5%) young people who play video games also write something related to gaming once a month, the survey found. Many write blogs and fan fiction.
The “shared cultural experience” of gaming also supports positive communication with friends and family, according to researchers.
The survey found that 3 in 4 (76.3%) young people who play talk to their friends about video games, compared to only 3 in 10 (29.4%) who discuss books.
“Young people said that playing video games helps them to build social connections both ‘in real life’ and online,” the researchers said.
Stronger communication and social connections make for improved mental well-being, the researchers concluded.
“Many young people said that playing video games helps them either deal with, or escape from, stress and difficult emotions,” researchers said, adding that it could be particularly helpful during coronavirus lockdowns.
Researchers did not provide details on the types of video games played or for how long the children played them.
“In spite of the stereotype of the socially awkward pale gamer, games are a good way to socially connect,” research psychologist Rachel Kowert told CNN in a previous interview. She did not participate in the survey.
“In this time of high anxiety and reduced social access… video games allow us to maintain friendship bonds in a multifaceted way,” she explained. “There’s collaboration and competition around a shared activity.”
In fact, 3 in 5 (69.6%) parents told researchers that communicating with family and friends as part of the games has been helpful for their children’s mental well-being.
Elissa Strauss contributed to this report.