They isolate children socially and distract them from learning, right? Think again. Researchers have found that kids who clock up regular console time can improve their hand-eye coordination, their grip on science, even their IQ.
A British study of 700 children found that simulation games developed children’s strategic thinking and planning skills. And researchers from the Department of Computing Science at the University of Alberta suggest that computer games can be a great way to explain physics concepts. Their game Siege integrates the concept of projectile movement and brings the effects of wind velocity and vertical angle into play.
In another project, done in 2004, students at Edmonton’s Holy Trinity Catholic High School created their own computer-game stories. Findings showed that while only one-third of the students were interested in writing a second story as a traditional narrative, two-thirds wanted to write another interactive story—even if it meant homework!
BUT WATCH OUT! Some games can create stress-like symptoms, with younger children more affected because they are less able to distinguish between fact and fiction. Ensure the computer is somewhere you can see it, and monitor its use.
Listening to loud music
If you despair over the thumping soundtrack blasting from your teen’s room, you may be surprised to learn it could be doing him some good.
There’s scientific evidence that the greater the music’s intensity, the more pleasure it brings, according to research from Britain’s University of Manchester. It has to do with the vestibular system, which is responsible for balance but also carries vibration; when sound waves set it off, it sends a positive message to the brain. Study author Neil Todd believes it’s a hangover from a primitive acoustic sense connected to basic drives such as hunger and sex.
But if the result is hearing loss, surely it’s not worth it? Todd discovered that although sounds carried across a room had to be louder than 90 decibels (equivalent to a motorcycle or a lawn mower) to produce the vestibular response, sounds carried through mass — such as the floor or a speaker you’re leaning against — only need to be 30 decibels to achieve the same sensation.
BUT WATCH OUT! Cumulative noise causes damage. Marshall Chasin, doctor of audiology at the Musicians’ Clinics of Canada in Toronto, says it’s okay to go to a 100-plus decibel rock concert as long as you don’t use a power mower the next day. In fact, Chasin recommends taking a break of 16 to 18 hours from noise after a concert to let your ears recover. And when it comes to iPods and other personal players, Chasin cites the 60/120 rule: It’s safe to listen at 60-percent volume for 120 minutes a day.