March 25, 2009

Video games help visual-spatial skills

Using cell phones and playing video games may not be as harmful to children's academic performance as many think, U.S. researchers suggest.

A team of Michigan State University researchers found cell phones had no effect on academic performance among a group of 12-year-olds.

Lead investigator Linda Jackson said the study found a strong relationship between video games and lower grade point averages. However, playing video games did not appear to affect math skills and had a positive relationship with visual-spatial skills. These skills -- in which a child learns visually, by thinking in pictures and images -- are considered the training wheels for performance in science, technology, engineering and math.

These are the areas where we want to see improvements in our children's academic performance, Jackson said in a statement.

The researchers surveyed students from 20 middle schools and an after-school center in Michigan. They asked how often the children used cell phones and played video games, both online and offline, and measured the children's grades, visual-spatial skills and performance on standardized tests in math and reading.

The researchers found females used cell phones more frequently than did males, while males played video games far more frequently than did females.

The findings are published by the Conference Proceedings of the International Association for Development of the Information Society.