In a surprising new study, researchers at the University of Padua have found that certain types of video games – namely action packed video games – may be successful in helping dyslexic children read more easily and accurately. Julian Omidi discusses the study and what it could mean for education.
There have been conflicting studies regarding the effects of electronic media on our children. One recent study revealed that television, internet surfing, texting or playing video games before sleep could interrupt the sleeping patterns of children and teenagers, causing sleep deprivation and a host of other problems. However, there is a new study which suggests that video games might be beneficial to some children who suffer from learning disabilities.
In a very small study from the University of Padua, which is to be published in the journal Current Biology, a team of researchers found that kids suffering from dyslexia might actually hone their reading skills by playing action video games. The study followed 10 dyslexic children aged 7-13 years, as they played either action or non-action video games. The group that played the action-heavy video games for 12 hours showed improvement in their reading skills that they only would have achieved through one year’s worth of actual reading. Additionally, the action video game group seemed to have an improved attention span than the kids who played the tamer video games. 
One of the skills that is essential to efficient and effective reading is the ability to quickly decipher the critical information within the written narrative, and the kids who were given action-packed video games were able to strengthen that skill more quickly than the non-action group.
The researchers are, naturally, hesitant to encourage children to play video games in lieu of reading – much more research needs to be performed before action video games become a part of school curriculum. However, the results are intriguing, and may come close to dismantling all of our previous theories regarding the usefulness of video games.
It should be noted that the study was very small – only 20 participants, and that these results have yet to be duplicated in a larger clinical trial. Moreover, the long-term effects have yet to be tested.
It is fairly safe to say that children still need to be monitored in terms of video game content, as well as the time allotted for active video game play. We still need to be cognizant of the fact that sedentary activities, such as television watching, internet browsing, and video games are major contributing factors to the obesity crisis in the United States, and such activities need to be limited in order to encourage young people to spend more time participating in more physically engaging hobbies. Nevertheless, these new findings could possibly change the methods currently employed for strengthening dyslexic children’s reading skills in a way that is as effective as it is fun.
By Julian Omidi
 Bakalar, Nicholas. “Video Games May Aid Children With Dyslexia.” NYTimes.com. The New York Times Company, 05 Mar. 2013. Web. <http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/05/video-games-may-aid-children-with-dyslexia/>.
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