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Why The Video Games You Think Are Bad Might Actually Be Good For Your Kid

First they tell us screen time won’t melt your kid’s brain — now it looks like all those first-person shooters and frenetic platformers may actually be better for your kid than Words With Friends and other lightly intellectual games you keep hoping they’ll play. That’s according to a new paper from the University of Wisconsin and UCLA.

It turns out, making rapid-fire decisions like those involved in whether or not you should shoot that guy or leap into Big Boss’ lair, can boost attention skills, reasoning, and spatial navigation just as much — if not more — than so-called brain games. Games with complex 3D settings, moving targets, and tasks where you dodge multiple obstructions showed particularly large effects on what researchers call “neuroplasticity,” or the brain’s capacity to change according to experience. That’s precisely because they force kids to problem solve and make decisions quickly. So, Fruit Ninja good; Farmville bad.

Still, just because virtual shooting, running, and driving recklessly might have some beneficial impacts on your kid, the researchers point out that there are still plenty of downsides to gaming — things like not doing their homework or, you know, seeing the sun. And even the AAP’s new “Screen Time Might Not Be Evil” guidelines suggest that it’s on you to make sure your kid plays games that don’t turn them into sociopaths. So … Fruit Ninja good; Grand Theft Autobad.