Despite common belief, a new study published online in the journal Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology challenges the perception that playing video games deteriorate the minds of young people. Actually, playing a lot of video games may increase intellectual functioning up to 1.75 times and school competence up to 1.88 times.

The researchers from the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health and Paris Descartes University studied the data from the School Children Mental Health Europe project that was conducted to children ages six to 11 years. The children, as well as their parents and teachers, were given questionnaires that asked about their mental health.

The teachers were asked for the children’s academic performance. The researchers have all taken the duration of playing video games, each child’s gender, age and family size into account.

Children playing video game. Photo from Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health

Children playing video game. Photo from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health

The children played more than five hours weekly, on the average. The noted positive effects of video game usage included high academic performance and high intellectual functioning.

Additionally, playing video games did not result to significant mental health problems. On top of that, children who played more have less problems and better relationships with their peers. Children with less educated or single mothers spend less time playing video games.

Nevertheless, other experts insist that too much video game use can lead to health problems. A child may skip meals or lose sleep because of video game addiction.

“Video game playing is often a collaborative leisure time activity for school-aged children. These results indicate that children who frequently play video games may be socially cohesive with peers and integrated into the school community. We caution against over interpretation, however, as setting limits on screen usage remains and important component of parental responsibility as an overall strategy for student success,” concludes Katherine Keyes, an assistant professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health.