Playing games can be good for you! There are social, emotional and cognitive benefits for playing video games and online games.
Because playing online games involves sitting in front of a screen, it is often dismissed. However, online gaming can be positive for young people. Games require a level of interaction and skill from the player; unlike watching television, which is more passive. Games can be a concern for parents and teachers, but playing games can also have beneficial impacts for children and young people.
State of play
The Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (IGEA) releases an annual report into the demographics of gamers in Australia. The 2018 Digital Australian snapshot highlights just how popular gaming is as a pastime for children and young people.
This report is backed up by research commissioned by The Office of the eSafety Commissioner into the use of online gaming by young people in July 2017. The research found that around 60% of young people played online games. Only 17% of respondents reported experiencing online bullying. When faced with online bullying, 42% of young people turned off chat, 41% ignored the bullying and 38% blocked bullies or stopped playing games with bullies.
Read more about the demographics of gaming in Australia with the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association's 'Digital Australia 2018 report'. The IGEA also produced a series of videos exploring different aspects of gaming.
Read more about this research on the Office of the eSafety Commissioner’s 'State of Play - Youth and online gaming in Australia.
Benefits of gaming
Games are engaging they require higher order thinking, problem solving and persistence. Many games, even first-person shooting video games (which may not be appropriate for children) teach cooperation, group work and scenario-based learning. Most games require strategy to understand and then work within the rules. All games offer a mix of intrinsic and extrinsic rewards. Humans play games precisely because they are captivating and reward us when we succeed. The Australian Office of the eSafety Commissioner, Think U Know UK, and the NZ organisation Netsafe all recognise that online games can help to develop teamwork, concentration, communication and problem-solving skills. They are also an opportunity for young people to practise communication and conflict resolution skills.
How can online games improve thinking skills?
Research by the Queensland University of Technology has found that games can improve thinking skills in children. Games often require children to follow instructions, consider their actions, and respond to problems. This can help develop important thinking skills, such as:
- awareness of the environment
- attention to detail
- problem-solving and planning
Read more about the research at the Queensland University of Technology’s Video games benefit children: Study webpage.
How can online games help children manage emotions?
Games can be a lot of fun for children and young people, but sometimes they can be frustrating too. It is not uncommon to try something and have it ‘fail’ or not go according to plan. They can also encounter unexpected or surprising events. This can help with skills such as:
- regulating and managing emotions
- learning how to calm themselves
- building resilience.
How can online games improve social skills?
While online games can seem like an isolating activity, it is often more social than some people think. In fact, according to the Office of the eSafety Commissioner, 81% of Australian young people aged 8-17 played an online game and 64% played with others in the 12 months to June 2017. Half of those surveyed had played online games with someone they had not met in person. Many children end up playing games with friends, and some even make new friends. This can improve a child’s social skills, including:
- collaboration and teamwork
- understanding behaviour
- peer-to-peer learning.
Read more about this research at the Office of the eSafety Commissioner’s research library.
Curriculum and syllabus links
NSW Syllabus outcomes
Australian Curriculum content descriptions
- 'Digital Australia 2018' Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (IGEA), accessed 31 January 2019
- 'State of play - youth and online gaming in Australia', Office of the eSafety Commissioner, accessed 31 January 2019
- 'The rise of online gaming', Office of the eSafety Commissioner, accessed 31 January 2019
- 'Gaming: what parents and carers need to know', ThinkUKnow, accessed 31 January 2019
- 'Online gaming tips for parents', Netsafe, accessed 31 January 2019
- 'Video games benefit children' Queensland University of Technology (QUT), accessed 31 January 2019
- 'Teens, video games and civics', Pew Research Center, accessed 31 January 2019