Composite of young girl leaping in front of retro video game graphics (all images)

Are Video Games Good for You?

Eleven-year-old Jackson Vacek lives in Texas. Two of his good friends live hundreds of miles away, in Ohio and Illinois. But Jackson gets to hang out with each of them for a few hours each week—by playing Minecraft over the internet. He says it’s a good way to stay connected with friends he rarely sees in person. 

“It’s fun to play with them on the Xbox because it’s not like I can go to their house or anything,” Jackson says. 

Many parents, including Jackson’s, allowed their children to spend more time playing video games while much of the U.S. was shut down last year. They say gaming lets kids escape from the real world and keep in touch with friends.

But other people argue that staring at a screen for hours at a time does more harm than good. They point out that playing video games can be bad for kids’ health and can actually isolate them from family and friends. 

Are video games good for you?

For as long as video games have been around, parents have complained that they’re nothing but a waste of time. In recent years, though, researchers have found that playing certain games can improve concentration and memory and even boost creativity. 

Jeff Haynes is a senior editor at Common Sense Media. His job is to review video games for kids. He says that as long as kids don’t overdo it and stick with games that are appropriate, gaming can have a lot of benefits. For example, playing with others can help kids learn how to accomplish goals through teamwork.

71% of parents say playing video games can be good for kids.

Source: C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital

“Being able to work with others is a vital skill,” he explains, “whether you’re playing a video game, working at a company, or interacting with other people in real life.”

Gaming can even turn into a career. Dozens of colleges in the U.S. offer scholarships for gamers who play esports (short for electronic sports). Also, more than 240,000 people work in the video game industry in the U.S. That includes people who develop and test new games.

Many people argue that reading, playing sports, and doing other activities can have the same benefits as playing video games. And, they say, gaming can have many more downsides. 

Experts point out that sitting around playing video games leaves less time for exercising. Excessive gaming can also lead to health problems, such as eye strain and neck, back, and wrist pain. Pushing buttons on a controller over and over again can lead to an injury called gamer’s thumb. 

86% of parents say teens spend too much time playing video games. 

Source: C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital

Playing video games can also distract kids from more important things. Last year, C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Michigan released a survey of parents about their teens’ gaming habits. Many parents reported that video games interfered with their teen’s homework and sleep. Nearly half said gaming got in the way of family activities. 

“You can spend so much time playing a game that you wind up literally disconnecting yourself from your family and friends,” Haynes says.

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1. According to the article, how did kids’ gaming habits change when much of the nation shut down?

2. What is the meaning of the word vital in the article? What does Jeff Haynes of Common Sense Media say is a vital skill?

3. What evidence supports the idea that video games can take kids’ attention away from more important things?

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