Boredom and attention are connected. It’s easy to see why many kids can’t keep their attention on things for long. They are easily bored. Yet, they are able to sit in front of a computer screen for hours at a time. What’s that about?

Video games offer children things that they can’t get in the real world. Whether it’s colorful characters and magical worlds, fantasy settings cater to a child’s boundless creativity and imagination. Let’s be honest, what’s more exciting?: A bear or A magic talking bear that can fly? This is also why cartoons as opposed to live action are a particular favorite. And, of course, video games add an element of interactivity, much like how a children’s television program “breaks the fourth wall” by asking children questions and leaving time for a response. Video games allow this sense of engagement while actually being engaging.

Video games also give children real-time feedback and positive reinforcement which, as we all know, is an effective way to encourage good behavior. Video games offer immediate gratification as well as rewards for the children, and rewards that don’t cost parents. It’s exciting for your child to receive a special bonus character or even compliments on their performance, because virtual rewards are, much like physical rewards, positive reinforcement, too.

Virtual rewards are immediate, imaginative and (generally) inexpensive and that’s why children become hooked on games. Sure, their attention span may be short but if a game can hold their attention, that helps to build up attention practice and focus.

Whether games have an overall positive impact on children is a controversial topic that is much debated. Hundreds of studies have investigated multiple claims, with mixed results. Some research has found that video games can influence subsequent behavior. While, on the downside, this can translate to “this game is going to make my child aggressive,” behavior that is consequential to a video game can be advantageous to the child if the game is designed properly and behavior managed accordingly.

Educational video games can be beneficial for the child. Video games that engage children while educating them can influence the child to become more invested in something positive – whether it’s social behavior or healthy habits. Many of these games are also designed so that the children can improve various cognitive skills such as decision making or planning.

By using the research and what we know about the psychology of gaming, society is increasingly developing video games that attract parents who no longer need to ask, “Will this game make my child aggressive?” but “How will this game help my child?”