Santa brought my oldest son an Xbox 360 last year for Christmas—despite my reservations. I'm not a super-strict-about-screen-time kind of mom, and (aging myself here) enjoyed playing my fair share of Ms. Pac-man and Q*bert as a kid. But the idea of seeing my offspring sitting on the couch, game console in hand, glassy-eyed from playing video games for hours on end, was a complete turn-off. I was determined not to raise little video game-playing zombies.
What got me on board with Santa's plan was seeing the absolute joy my football-loving son and, ahem, husband both got playing Madden NFL 25 at a cousin's house—and then again at another cousin's house. (Were we the only ones in the extended family who didn't have this game at our disposal?) I couldn't deny the father-son and cousin-cousin bonding. So...Santa, and Xbox, and Madden. And becoming a stricter-about-screen-time kind of mom.
Now, my son has asked Santa to bring another game to add to his (very small) collection, and there's new evidence that proves it might be a good idea for reasons beyond family bonding: A recent study published in November the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that playing fast-paced action video games can actually boost learning capabilities. And in the study "Electric Gaming and Psychosocal Adjustment" published in Pediatrics in August, Oxford University researchers looked at nearly 5,000 kids ages 10–15 and found that playing video games for up to an hour a day was associated with "higher life satisfaction and prosocial behavior and lower externalizing and internalizing problems" than playing video games for more than 3 hours a day—or not playing video games at all. The 1-hour-a-day players reported less hyperactivity, too.
So if I've got this straight, a little bit of daily action-video-game playing can make my son happier, less hyper, and a better learner to boot? Bring it on, Santa.
Erika Rasmusson Janes is a senior editor at Parents.com and the mom of two rambunctious boys. She has yet to play Madden NFL 25. Follow her on Twitter.
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