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Health & Parenting

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Video Games and TV: Do They Make Kids Smarter?

An author makes a case that popular culture is beneficial for the mind.

TV as a Learning Tool continued...

"Video games can provide valuable hand-eye coordination and develop skills of strategy and anticipation," says Farrel, author of How to Be Your Own Therapist. "You can play chess and, perhaps, develop some similar skills, but most kids prefer to be active and the video games fit the bill."

Kevin Leman, a psychologist in Tucson, Ariz., and author of several books including the recent Home Court Advantage: Preparing Your Children to Be Winners in Life, says that Johnson's ideas are doing a tremendous disservice. "We are pushing kids ahead emotionally for things that they are not ready for," says this father of five, referring to some of the tumultuous dramas on television.

"I think adults have taken the license to say 'it's no big deal and kids can make their own choices,'" he says. But "kids are like a delicate plant. We don't expose them to everything, we protect them," he says.

A Call for More Imagination Time

In Home Court Advantage, Leman calls for more creativity and downtime over video games and television shows. "This is what is missing -- the time for kids to use their imagination," he says. "Kids today cocoon at age 7 or 8, they sit in front of their computers and they log on and talk to their buddies."

Leman believes that "benign old video like Centipede and Pacman were pretty innocuous and entertaining; we are now blowing people up and shooting semi-automatic and automatic weapons."

"There is a difference between being appropriately entertained with something that's benign and something that is violent," says Leman.

A new study in the Journal of Personality adds some weight to the claim that violent video games can increase aggression. The study of more than 200 college students found that those who had played more violent video games as teenagers reported engaging in more aggressive behavior.

Of Violence and Video Games

Johnson tells WebMD that he believes "there is very little correlation between fictional violence and real-world violence."

According to Johnson, "The television shows and video games have never been more violent -- at least in terms of the specific bloodshed and gore that they show. And yet we've just experienced the single most dramatic drop in violent crime in U.S. history."

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