The benefits of video games in education can’t be ignored. Studies show that playing video games encourages critical thinking, improves motor skills and promotes key social skills like leadership and team building. They’re also effective tools for teaching educational skills like algebra, biology and coding, as gaming helps to deepen learning and understanding.

Video gaming not only educates K-12 learners, but also helps students in their college careers. A recent trial by the University of Glascow found that video gaming can help students develop the skills necessary to succeed in higher education, like resourcefulness, communication and mental adaptability.

And because nearly every American kid plays video games, educators can leverage students’ favorite pastime to keep them engaged and increase their ability to retain information.

The Downside of Video Games

All video games aren’t created equal. Many of the most popular video games promote violence, drug and alcohol use and other negative behaviors. Research found that children exposed to violent media may become numb to violence, imitate the violence and show more aggressive behavior.

Excessive video gaming can have negative effects on children, too. Those who play video games more than an hour a day may experience social and behavior problems, according to a Spanish study. The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) identified the following consequences of excessive gaming:

● Less time socializing with friends and family

● Poor social skills

● Time away from family time, school work and other hobbies

● Lower grades

● Less reading

● Less exercise and becoming overweight

● Decreased sleep and poor quality sleep

● Aggressive thoughts and behaviors

Video Games in Education

Despite these concerns, educators can help prevent the negative effects of playing video games while students enjoy the positive benefits. Consider the following tips for using video games in educational settings:

● Limit the amount of time spent playing video games. Children only need an hour a week of gaming to experience benefits. Factor in the amount of time students may spend playing at home to determine how often to schedule gameplay in your classroom or program.

● Check the Electronic Software Ratings Board (ESRB) to select age-appropriate games. The ESRB assigns ratings based on the content of the video games. For example, games rated E contain content that is suitable for all ages while games rated M contain content suitable only for ages 17 and up. See the ESRB Ratings Guide to learn more.

● Set parental controls. If using a game system, set restrictions based on game ratings, internet access, in-game purchases and more.

● Facilitate gameplay. Video gaming in educational settings is not a free-for-all; it is a time of critical learning in which “regular rules” still apply. Manage gameplay in a way that encourages students to discover, make connections and build new and improved understanding.

● Allow for creativity and innovation. Alternatively, avoid constantly enforcing the “rules” of the game and discussing “right and wrong.” Video games are designed to encourage critical thinking, and students need flexibility to discover new and inventive solutions.

● Take time to reflect. Before ending a gaming session, provide time to discuss and gather feedback. What did students like and dislike? What did they learn? Give them time to share their experience. Reflection allows students to transfer the learning from play to practice.

For a list of age-appropriate games, check out these recommendations from Common Sense Media.