The surge in the number of Filipinos purchasing smart phones, the popularity of gaming consoles, and the sustained increase in Internet use in the Philippines have turned the country to fertile grounds for growth of video games.

These developments tend to raise alarm among Filipinos, especially parents, who fear that engaging in video games could have repercussions in the health and social skills of their kids. These concerns are anchored on the belief that being sedentary for periods of time when children should be outside playing not only takes a toll on their fitness and also prevent them from interacting with other people.

These are well-placed thinking. Kids should have more opportunities to explore the real world more, and what better way to start than ditching video games and playing with other kids.

However, a recent study published by the American Psychological Association (APA) said that in some cases, video games do have benefits.

“Important research has already been conducted for decades on the negative effects of gaming, including addiction, depression and aggression, and we are certainly not suggesting that this should be ignored,” said the APA release, citing research author Isabela Granic, PhD, of Radboud University Nijmegen in The Netherlands.

“However, to understand the impact of video games on children’s and adolescents’ development, a more balanced perspective is needed,” said Granic, who published the study “The Benefits of Playing Video Games” with Rutger C.M.E. Engels, PhD.

For one, researchers found that video games, particularly shooter games, have the tendency to strengthen the cognitive skills of their test subjects, especially in the areas of spatial navigation, reasoning, memory, and perception. These effects shooter games have on test subjects were not evident on other types of “safe” video games like puzzles or role-playing games.

“This has critical implications for education and career development, as previous research has established the power of spatial skills for achievement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” Granic said.

Researchers also said video games may also help children develop problem-solving skills, especially for playing role-playing games.

Meanwhile, simple games such as “Angry Birds” have the ability to improve players’ moods, promote relaxation and ward off anxiety.

While many doctors acknowledge the interesting outcomes brought about by the study, many still believe more studies are needed to conclusively prove that video games offer more good than harm.

Until then, doctors advise that just like any other activities, one should engage in video games in moderation.

The key is balance and time management. Kids and even adults should be mindful of the time they allocate for games, making sure that they only play video games in spare time and not sacrifice other activities like outdoor sports, work, and especially time with their loved ones.