Are Video Games Good For You?
Video game, cell phone and Facebook addictions have received a lot of attention in the media lately. Given the increase in cyberbullying, online aggression and the proposed Gaming Addiction Disorder, do video games actually have psychological benefits?
YES, in moderation! Technology is such an integral part of today's social experience for children and teens. Five and six year olds are watching Youtube videos on their mini Ipads and some can program a cell phone better than their parents.
Balance is key! Children and teens need exposure to a variety of sensory and social experiences. More than ever, parents need to be aware of their kids screen use and balance it with "unplugged play."
Health Benefits of Playing Tetris
Tetris is a great example of a video game with health benefits. Lucky for you and me, several people decided to conduct research the benefits of Tetris. Here are a few things they discovered:
* appeals to your "natural desire to organize things, complete tasks and achieve goals
* provides a never ending stream of incomplete tasks, keeping your brain hooked
* decreases PTSD flashbacks and addictive cravings
* improves focus, spatial perception and processing.
Video Games, Attention Span and ADHD
In case you are unaware, ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, with two of the most common symptoms being inattention and distractibility. Parents and teachers often shake their heads in wonder when kids can focus on video games for hours but can't seem to remember to complete or turn in homework, or even sit still long enough to take notes in class or remember simple tasks.
Here's the down low on ADHD brains. They have this cool center called the Prefrontal Cortex. It's like the hard drive of a computer, controlling tasks of focus, logic, problem solving, time management, organization, memory and completing tasks in a timely manner. Funny thing is, fun, novel, engaging, playful activities activate this part of the brain. It also resists lectures, numerous detailed directions and being told to "try harder." In other words, the PFC loves video games!
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends behavior management therapy for the treatment of ADHD in preschoolers and a combination of stimulant medication and behavior management therapy for school aged children. The idea is that the environment plays a large role in creating structure for the child along with helping the child learn ways to cope with and manage symptoms such as interrupting others and being mindful of social cues.
NeuroPlus and ADHD
A new pilot study claims playing the video game NeuroPlus can help improve focus and decrease hyperactivity and impulsivity in children with ADHD. While playing the game users are encouraged to focus and sit still in order to help fly a dragon. The higher the focus, the faster the dragon will fly. Now what child or teen doesn't want to make a dragon fly?
Preliminary research on NeuroPlus seems promising, however i caution parents to use it as a stand alone tool for treating ADHD. ADHD treatment often involves education about the brain, the importance of environmental structure and helping the child recognize peer social cues.
In my experience as an ADHD therapist, effective treatment often involves a healthy dose of exercise, sleep, avoiding regular consumption of artificially processed foods, mindfulness training, consistent structure, embracing inner gifts of creativity, discovering solutions, self-compassion and behavior management/social skills training.
If you are interested in learning more about ADHD treatment or the value of video games, contact Sara at 913-244-8786.
Until next time,
Sara Minges, LPC
"The Play Expert"