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I have an 11 year old son with ADD. A doctor has stated that there is research showing that kids can become addicted to violent video games and that gaming raises cortisol levels in people who play video games. A counselor says that ALL electronics can cause the above two situations.

What is your take on this? What about active video games such as Dance Revolution or the wii games? How should a parent address this? Take them off all games permanently or just take a break? Help!

With the surging popularity of video games and interactive technology, it is smart to worry about the effects that too much time spent in front of the computer or TV can have on your child. While there is some research on the negative effects of gaming and game addiction on kids, as your doctor pointed out, it is also important to look at the positive effects video games can have.

Unfortunately, when video games are discussed, it is often as an umbrella category, when in reality there are many, many different types of video games, some good and some not so good for kids and learning. Many researchers initially took the view that playing video games is a pastime with few (if any) educational or social benefits.

However, recent research has demonstrated some measurable learning changes when playing certain types of video games. Playing video games has been linked to problem-solving skills(opens in a new window), improved dexterity, and collaboration among peers.

It all depends on the type of video game being played. It is indeed true that students who frequently play violent video games may view violence as more socially acceptable and may be more prone to getting into fights and arguments. However, research(opens in a new window) has also shown that children who play more social video games are less likely to get into fights and may be more helpful to their peers.

Other researchers think(opens in a new window) that the more complex video games could help players develop the ability to set goals, prioritize tasks, and memorize complex steps in a process; gains made in game have been shown to translate into real life gains in the same areas. For someone with ADHD, these may be valuable opportunities for improving those skills.

The important thing for you as a parent is to recognize that there are aspects of playing video games that may be helpful for your son (in addition to being fun!), but that it is important to monitor his game playing closely. Don’t allow him to play violent video games, or games that portray others negatively (for example, many games show women in a demeaning way or as victims of violence).

Schedule a routine or break times that don’t become argument times. And make sure that video games don’t completely eclipse other activities, such as getting outside to play with other kids.

Note from LD OnLine: See more expert answers on Behavior and Social Skills and visit Common Sense Media for trusted ratings on kids’ entertainment.

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