Researchers at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden studied how American children’s screen habits relate to how their cognitive abilities develop over time. They found that children who spent above-average time playing video games increased their intelligence more than average, while watching TV or social media had neither a positive nor a negative effect. The results are published in the journal Scientific Reports.
Children spend more time in front of screens. How this affects their health and whether it has a positive or negative impact on their cognitive abilities is hotly debated. In this current study, researchers at Karolinska Institutet and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam specifically examined the relationship between screen habits and intelligence over time.
More than 9,000 boys and girls in the United States participated in the study. At the age of nine or ten, the children took a set of psychological tests to measure their general cognitive abilities (intelligence). Children and their parents were also asked about the amount of time the children spent watching TV and videos, playing video games and interacting with social media.
Continue after 2 years
Just over 5,000 children were followed up after two years, who were asked to repeat psychological tests. This enabled researchers to study how children’s performance on tests differed from one test session to the next, and to control for individual differences on the first test. They also controlled for genetic differences that could influence intelligence and differences that could be related to parents’ educational background and income.
On average, children spend 2.5 hours a day watching TV, half an hour on social media and one hour playing video games. The results showed that those who played more games than the average increased their intelligence between the two measures by about 2.5 IQ points more than the average. No positive or negative effect of watching television or social media was observed.
“We haven’t examined the effects of screen behavior on physical activity, sleep, well-being, or school performance, so we can’t say anything about that,” says Torkel Klingberg, professor of cognitive neuroscience in the Department of Neuroscience, Karolinska. Institute. “But our results support the claim that screen time in general does not impair children’s cognitive abilities, and that playing video games can actually help boost intelligence. This is consistent with many experimental studies on video game play.”
Intelligence is not static
The findings 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 study the effects of other environmental factors and how cognitive influences relate to childhood brain development,” says Torkel Klingberg.
One limitation of the study is that it covered only US children and did not differentiate between different types of video games, making the results difficult to convey to children in other countries with other playing habits. There was also a risk of error reporting since screen time and subjective habits were categorized.
Video games: Our study indicates that they enhance intelligence in children
Bruno Sauce et al., Impact of digital media on children’s intelligence while controlling for genetic differences in cognition and socioeconomic background, Scientific Reports (2022). DOI: 10.1038 / s41598-022-11341-2
Provided by Karolinska Institutet
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