Teenagers and Video Games: A Love Story

It is a common scene in most households with teenagers that parents will observe their adolescents glued to the latest video game for hours on end, at the detriment of chores, homework or social interaction. Many parents assume that video games are unproductive and that their kids spend too much time playing them and not on other things. It seems that digital entertainment may have some effects on teenagers that are not bad at all. In fact, research shows that digital games might help teenagers develop great skills that will come handy on day to day life. This is a subject definitely worth looking more into.

Society has even gone so far in its controversial view of video games as to suggest that games are responsible for violent behavior in young people. No matter what your stance on this type of entertainment is, there is little data to substantiate the claims that video games are responsible for violent youth. If anything youth who were already violent to begin with are attracted to violent materials, TV, media, or other violent activities.

For many parents it is hard to see the appeal or the benefits of their kids playing digital games. But research shows that certain kinds of games may be educational and actually stimulate the prefrontal cortex, a region of the brain responsible for what is called executive function. Executive function refers to the ability to integrate multiple stimuli, organize and analyze them, and determine an appropriate response or course of action, taking into account the probable consequences of the action taken. Most parents would be ecstatic if their teenager possessed those seemingly rare abilities. And parents are correct in assuming that this behavior does not happen as frequently in adolescents as in adults, because the adolescent brain has not fully developed this region yet.

Not all video games offer the benefits of prefrontal cortex development, and there certainly are video games that offer little to no benefits whatsoever. But, if you have a teen who is a gamer, and you want to determine if his games are worthwhile or not, ask to play with him. Have him teach you how the game works and what is involved. You might even find it challenging and engaging yourself. If certain video games can actually enhance brain development, maybe then parents will be more accepting of the hours glued to the "Executive Function Machine".

Matt Keck, MFT, is the Clinical Director at Cielo House located in Belmont and San Jose, California. Cielo House offers intensive, professional eating disorder treatment in a comfortable home-like setting. Cielo House is a special kind of treatment program, offering a unique combination of professional treatment delivery in a welcoming, personal environment. http://www.CieloHouse.com