How Computer Games Affect the Brain

Video Games and the BrainMany parents believe that playing computer games helps kids improve their minds, but this is proving to not be the case. Although research shows that playing on a computer or mobile device does help some cognitive skills, it appears that the negative effects of screen time far outweigh the positives.

In fact, it even appears that the late Apple founder Steve Jobs intuitively considered that technology was risky for kids and limited his own family’s exposure to technology. According to an article in the New York Times, he didn’t even let them use his famous iPad when it first came out.

Kids spend an estimated 7.5 hours per day on mobile devices. When kids play computer games, their minds are processing information in much different way than kids who are, say, running around on a playground. It might look like they are concentrating but it is not the form of attention needed to thrive in school or life. Recent studies have shown that playing computer games only builds very short-term attention that needs to be rewarded frequently. To succeed in school and social situations, kids need to build long-term unrewarded attention – the exact opposite of what is being stimulated through video games and modern TV.

Studies show that video games, especially violent ones, stimulate the left brain and inhibit the right frontal lobes which are critical for sustained unrewarded attention, inhibition and social skill development. One study has found that playing computer games may stunt brain development. Researchers found through highly specialized mind mapping technology that the only brain activity going on in the brains of teens playing on the computer was in the areas that control vision and movement. They found no activity in the frontal lobes. By contrast, the researchers observed that both the left and the right hemispheres of the kids’ brains doing simple arithmetic calculations were highly active.

At the very least, parents should monitor their children’s screen time to ensure optimal brain development.