Playing video games can almost double a child’s intelligence, say scientists.
A study of six to eleven year-olds found those who indulged were more likely to do well at school - and get on with their peers.
Previous research has suggested they can make kids uncooperative, aggressive and rude but the latest findings show there are positive effects.
Professor Katherine Keyes and colleagues said although video games are a favourite pastime of children the effect on their health is often perceived to be negative.
So they assessed the link between the amount of time spent playing them and youngsters’ mental health and cognitive and social skills and found there is a good side.
The study published in Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology showed the most regular users were 1.75 and 1.88 times more likely to have high intelligence and high overall school competence, respectively.
There were no significant associations with any mental health problems involving these children - either reported by themselves or mothers or teachers.
The researchers also found more video game playing was associated with less relationship problems with their peers.
Based on parent reporting one in five children played video games more than five hours per week.
The results were based on data from the School Children Mental Health Europe project for children.
Parents and teachers assessed their child’s mental health in a questionnaire and the children themselves responded to questions through an interactive tool. Academic success was evaluated by teachers.
Factors associated with time spent playing video games included being a boy, being older and belonging to a medium size family.
Having a less educated or single mother decreased time spent playing video games.
Prof Keyes, of Columbia University in New York, said: “Video game playing is often a collaborative leisure time activity for school-aged children.
“These results indicate children who frequently play video games may be socially cohesive with peers and integrated into the school community.
“We caution against over interpretation, however, as setting limits on screen usage remains an important component of parental responsibility as an overall strategy for student success.”