Online Games And Cognitive Development: How Playing Online Games Are Beneficial For Cognitive Development Of Preschool Children

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Abstract

In this review paper, we tried to present a cognitive effects of online games for pre-school children. The results of the study were that online games were emphasized by new studies in the literature for pre-school children. Previous studies have revealed the importance of online games in terms of visual attention, visual screening, multi-tasking in preschool children when taken from a cognitive perspective. We argue that there is a general consensus on these cognitive characteristics as a positive effect. When we look at the cognitive negative effects, we could not find very strong studies, so we think that online games support the above cognitive features if they are played with certain games in pre-school education. In addition, children with cognitive impairment compare their peers in preschool period can be supported with these games. For this age group, which we know to be extremely important for cognitive development, more studies are needed because of the increasing interest in online games with the developing technology.

Screen-viewing has increased significantly for the past ten years, especially among young children including preschoolers and online gaming takes the largest places in this category. Video game is a visual-digital activity which is programmed mainly for interactive and goal-oriented purposes (Johnson, 2006). Surprisingly, online gaming is way more common than thought when it comes to preschool children (Rideout, Vandewater, & Wartella, 2003). In fact, there are many positive outcomes of online gaming in terms of cognitive development. If we look at the picture from a neurological perspective, Koepp and colleagues (1998) revealed that dopamine is released during a goal-oriented task such as a video game and the children who play video games need to complete multiple missions in one game, depending on the context those can be detecting the enemies and self-defense which increases their visual attention skill (Johnson, 2006). It is confirmed by a study done by Green & Bavelier (2003) that the visual attention skill is more develop and efficient in online gamers than the children who do not play video games. Even though video games can often seen irrational, they are actually have a huge impact on visual attention in a positive way. Also, the importance of kindergarten education has been confirmed all around the world because this period is one of the breaking points for a child to explore and receive basic information about the environment (Ananiadou & Claro, 2009). Cognitive skills which cover memory, multitasking and learning, develop by readiness skills such as listening and following directions, and academics like colors and numbers (Can-Yasar, Inal, Uyanık, & Kandır, 2012). This development can be manipulated by the technology that has been increasing for the past years and online games can be used to increase this development in preschool children. Online games are now often used for educational purposes as well.

There are many free online games that are designed specifically for preschool kids to improve their cognitive development (Quinn, Rutherford, Leone, Osher, & Poirier, 2005). According to researchers, online gaming can be beneficial for preschoolers’ since they have become a very curial part of early childhood education for their importance at hand-eye coordination, visual scanning and auditory discrimination (Johnson, Christie, & Yawkey, 1999; Lisi & Wolford, 2002). It was also proven that, for the educational perspective, online games are better at make children memorize the key facts of a certain concept rather than the traditional teaching methods (Chuang, & Chen, 2009). All of these benefits of online gaming, memory, hand-eye coordination, visual scanning and auditory discrimination, have physiological backgrounds and explanations so we can make better deductions on our topic of interest.

Hand-eye Coordination

In order to pick up something, we first need to get that object to our sight and we often produce a saccadic eye movement to do that. After producing the saccadic eye movement, the reaching movement comes. If a person has enough of a hand-eye coordination, the hand can reach out to the targeted object of the sight (Cotti, Vercher, & Guillaume, 2010). In other words, hand-eye coordination is the brain’s capability to synchronize vision with fine motor skills which are creating our ability to control smaller muscles in our bodies such as hands and wrists and allowing us to make more detailed movements (Lasky, 1977). When we think about online gaming based on this information, we determine that pressing computer buttons to complete a mission on the screen, which is required both eye and hand movements to work harmoniously, can be an example of how online gaming is increasing the hand-eye coordination.

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Visual Scanning

Visual scanning is an important skill to maintain our daily life and it refers to capacity to relevant information finding. Visual perception is one of the main aspects of visual scanning and it’s defined as identifying objects in terms of their shapes, colors and lights. In order to compare the relevant and irrelevant objects and to find the desired object out of the picture we use visual scanning and this process stops once we find the relevant or desired item (CogniFit?). So, the fact that online games have many visual stimulants can explain how online gaming might has a positive impact on visual scanning since most of the online games require the gamer to identify and differentiate relevant items to succeed in the game.

Auditory Discrimination

Auditory discrimination can be defined as the capability of differentiate and manipulate the phonetics that are coming from the outside world, in other words phonological awareness. Phonological awareness skill also provides us to have the ability of several different things such as recognizing language, separate, identify and combine phonemes. In terms of the education of preschool children this skill is helpful to read, write and spell (Burk, Troost, & Walker, 2004). Especially about the reading ability, this skill can be highly beneficial which often used in directions of online games as well to complete the task. Addition to that, there is a computer program called Living Letters which has designed to develop phonological awareness skill by make young children repeat familiar words such as the child’s name to draw attention and the program does this though games (Van der Kooy-Hofland, Bus, & Roskos, 2012).

Downsides of Online Gaming

Although there are positive outcomes of playing video games, some research about playing excessive amounts of the online game shown that there is a negative correlation between video game experience and cognitive skills. However, studies did not demonstrate the negative effects of video game exposure, Healy (1998) suggested that excessive video game experience can inhibit cognitive development. Bailey, West, & Anderson (2009) examined the effects of video game experience on cognitive skills, but especially on cognitive control. Bailey et al., (2009) specifically researched the effects of playing video games on proactive and reactive elements of cognitive control. Their results showed that video game experience can be negatively influential on cognitive skills. Another study by Homer, Plass, Raffaele, Ober, & Ali (2017) examined the link between the Alien Game and executive functions. Executive functions are the mental skills that are important when planning, organizing, multitasking, processing other cognitive abilities, and these special skills are controlled by the frontal lobe. Homer et al., (2017) reported that online games can be more beneficial when they especially created for improving cognitive skills, like the Alien Game, which is created by online game designers and developmental psychologists. Another study which focused on the relation between video game experience and cognitive disorders, showing that video game exposure is related to the symptoms which can be identified as hyperactivity and attention deficit disorders (Swing, 2008). Kronenberger, Mathews, Dunn, Wang, Wood, Giauque, Larsen, Rembush, Lowe, & Li (2005) focused on adolescents and their results demonstrated that their executive functioning abilities decreased as their violent online game usage increased. Another study by Mathews, Kronenberger, Wang, Lurito, Lowe, & Dunn (2005) found a decrease in frontal lobe alerting between 71 adolescents who use the higher amount of violent media and this decreasing also can be observable among aggressive people. Kowal, Toth, Exton, & Campbell (2018) indicated that action video game players did more errors than non-video game players on the Stroop test. However, they were faster in reacting time.

Conclusion

In this review paper, we tried to present a cognitive effects of online games for pre-school children. The results of the study were that online games were emphasized by new studies in the literature for pre-school children. Previous studies have revealed the importance of online games in terms of visual attention, visual screening, multi-tasking in preschool children when taken from a cognitive perspective. We argue that there is a general consensus on these cognitive characteristics as a positive effect. When we look at the cognitive negative effects, we could not find very strong studies, so we think that online games support the above cognitive features if they are played with certain games in pre-school education. In addition, children with cognitive impairment compare their peers in preschool period can be supported with these games. For this age group, which we know to be extremely important for cognitive development, more studies are needed because of the increasing interest in online games with the developing technology.

References

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