NEW YORK, May 29 — After hearing alarming reports on the effects of screen time on young people, some parents might not like the idea of their offspring playing video games. Yet there are positive aspects to this pastime. In fact, a new study claims that video games can be beneficial for preschool children at risk of dyslexia.

Dyslexia is a learning disorder characterised by difficulty reading. It manifests itself in difficulties in identifying letters, syllables and words. The causes of dyslexia are still poorly understood, although the scientific community suspects a problem in the way visual information is transmitted and analysed by the brain. However, it is known that a child with a dyslexic parent is 80 times more likely to develop the disorder.

Dyslexia is typically diagnosed once children start learning to read in elementary school. But it is possible to identify children at risk earlier. With this in mind, a French-Italian research team set out to determine whether playing video games could help overcome cognitive deficits associated with dyslexia in preschool children exhibiting such deficits.

To do this, the academics conducted an experiment with 20 preschool children, aged 5 to 6, 79 of whom were identified as being at risk of dyslexia. They divided them into four distinct groups. The first group had to play the action video game Space Invaders Extreme 2 for 45 minutes, four times a week, for a month and a half, while the second group played a series of mini-games. Children in the third group attended phonological training with a speech therapist, while those in the fourth group received no specific treatment.

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The effectiveness of the different experimental protocols on the children was assessed by means of tests measuring phonological awareness, phonological working memory and rapid naming abilities. It emerged that children who had played Space Invaders Extreme 2 were better able than others to break down spoken words into phonemes. In other words, they were much more phonologically aware than their peers. Surprisingly, the researchers found that this phenomenon was still visible six months after the end of the experiment. They therefore conclude that action video games like Space Invaders Extreme 2 had a lasting effect on children’s phonological development.

Although this research has methodological limitations, it opens the door to new methods of intervention for children with learning difficulties, who may eventually become dyslexic. Certain video games could help them improve the cognitive skills needed to acquire reading skills. Reassuring news for parents. — ETX Studio