Contrary to the common perception that video games can lead to sloth, weight gain and lower self-
esteem, more and more evidence indicates that gaming can provide an opportunity to learn new skills,
encourage exercise and boost feelings of self-worth in girls.
Video Games Boosts Mental Health
A recent study conducted by Brigham Young University researchers, found that girls who played age- appropriate games with a parent exhibited better behavior, felt a greater connection to their families and demonstrated more resilient mental health than those who did not play video games or played more mature games.
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Boys, despite spending more time engaged in video game play, did not exhibit the same benefits when partnered with their parents.
Video Games Encourage Exercise
While video gaming is often associated with sedentariness and inactivity, gamers are often inspired with the virtual moves during electronic play. In addition, certain video game consoles, like the Wii, encourage physical activity as many of the titles require players to mimic the real life actions of a sport. Some research suggests that there is a correlation between playing realistic sports video games and increased time spent engaged in physical activity in real life. Additionally, video games can serve as an instruction course in how to participate in certain sports or make certain movements. A 2009 study conducted by Deakin University medical researchers, found that preschoolers who played video games performed better on mobility tests (like kicking, catching and throwing) than did children who did not play electronic games. It seems that children are able to pattern their own body movements after what they witness or experience in a digital world. Video games also provide girls with an opportunity to explore a variety of sports that they may have been reluctant to pursue due to an unwillingness to buck traditional stereotypes. In addition, girls who may not have access to regular physical fitness classes or other forms of recreational activity are able to improve their athletic ability through physically-demanding interactive video games.
Video Games Allow Exploration Of Different Identities
Video games create a safe alternate reality that inspires creativity and allows gamers to take on different identities. In real life, the player may be a 9-year-old girl, but in the game world, she’s a forty-foot tall ogre with a penchant for smashing houses. Of course, the identity shift is not necessarily that dramatic. Girls are able to explore different careers, being different characters and new appearances. Many video games allow the player to create their own look—or to create a look that want to emulate. With the less-than-healthy messages about beauty portrayed in the media, online beauty video games provide girls with a safe space to explore changing their appearance in a positive and fun manner.
Video Games Help Strengthen Skills
Some research suggests that girls are less proficient than boys when it comes to testing spatial- reasoning; however, spatial-reasoning skills can be improved through the use of video games, as the games often require players to navigate through a virtual space and manipulate objects in a three- dimensional plane. Several recent studies have shown that children who regularly engage in video game play improve their spatial-reasoning skills. These skills are considered necessary for success in science and math classes— in which excellence could lead to careers in technology and engineering. By boosting girls’ visual-spatial skills, gaming can encourage girls to explore a career field that they may not have considered in the past, or thought was possible for them.
Video Games Boost Self-Esteem
The sheer variety of games available today provides girls with an opportunity to overcome challenges and excel at something, something that perhaps they may not feel in real life. There are games that challenge girls to excel in sports, build cities, manage businesses and explore new worlds. These games are designed to teach girls how to independently problem-solve.
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The sense of achievement that comes with each new skill that is learned, or level that is unlocked, can greatly boost a girl’s self-esteem. Video games are not the enemy of health as previously believed. A balanced life with video game play, balanced with real life activities, will lead to a happy, healthy girl with a greater set of skills and experiences than one who has not had the advantage of video gaming.
Marcela De Vivo is a freelance writer from Los Angeles who works with dressupgames.org. She regularly covers topics on gaming and health, and as a mom of a little girl who loves games, is happy to spread the word about how much video games can be a positive experience for young girls.