While it's commonly believed that video games are harmful for children, researchers have found that it can help them evaluate, express and manage emotions when used as part of an emotional intelligence training programme.
"Video games may improve the expression of emotions, but awareness and coping strategies can't be solely understood by games. Emotional intelligence can be better explained when there are emotions involved from both sides," Manish Jain, Consultant at BLK Super Speciality Hospital, Delhi, told IANS.
According to the study published in the Games for Health Journal, researchers from the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Italy developed an emotional intelligence training programme that integrated video games as experience-based learning tools.
The researchers created EmotivaMente, a video game, to enhance emotional intelligence among adolescents, perhaps the group that could benefit the most. They analysed 121 adolescents who participated in eight sessions.
"Games for health have been designed to address an increasing variety of issues. A relatively new health issue is emotional intelligence, which has implications for various health problems, including coping with stress," said Tom Baranowski, Professor at the Baylor College of Medicine in the US.
The preliminary evaluation indicated that video games enhanced the students' evaluation and expression of emotions.
But some experts believe outdoor activities should be given more importance to develop emotional intelligence, which includes awareness of emotions, managing emotions effectively and maintaining relationships, in children.
"In the modern day where interaction is increasingly becoming online, and more time is spent indoors, the right way to build emotional intelligence is people-to-people interactions and connecting, spending quality time with peers and family, learning through experiences and feedback," Samir Parikh, Consultant Psychiatrist and Director at Fortis Mental Health Programme in Delhi, told IANS.
"Video games are not the most prudent way to enhance emotional skills. Young people should have a well-balanced life with adequate outdoor activities and investment of time and energy in building relationships by working on communication and person-to-person connect," Parikh said.
Sagar Lavania, Head of Department, Psychiatry and Mental Health, Nayati Medicity, Mathura, believes "human and one-on-one interactions are ideal ways to increase emotional intelligence, especially among adolescents, and can never be substituted by alternative methods".
"However, if newer techniques are coming up, it needs to be thoroughly researched and supervised, keeping in mind the vulnerability of teenagers," he remarked.