Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Effects of Video Games for Pleasure on Children

Picture Credit

Our children's world is different than ours was. They grow up with the inevitable fact that they will at some point use technology for a variety of things from work to pleasure. Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter have taken strangers, thrown them together and created friendships. Video games and online networking through subscriptions on X-box live and PlayStation have done the same. But what, if any effect do these games have on our children? Are we doomed to raise a generation of lazy, socially inept, larping, overweight children if we allow them to play video games? Do these games effect behavior?
These were some of the questions that were addressed at the Activision for Girls convention I attended today and it got me thinking, I have never written about how I feel about video games for pleasure. Sure, there are plenty of good things to say about games specifically designed for education, both on the computer and various hand-held systems such as the iphone, ipad and Nintendo DS, but what about games for pleasure? With some statistics saying that up to 91% of children between the ages of 2-17 play video games, this is indeed a big question.

Let's look at the physical aspect first. Most of us agree that games that require movement (Wii, Kinect) are generally better physically, but there are other physical benefits to games that don't require as much movement. Games require hand eye coordination, fine motor skills and in hospital settings have been known to be an effective pain management tool.

Video games may also have many positive effects on certain cognitive abilities such as creativity problem solving, reasoning skills, and can even increase your ability to focus. The office of Naval Research study revealed that "adults that played video games performed 10%-20% higher in perceptual and cognitive abilities." And some research has also shown that toddlers exposed to higher TV times are verbally advanced.

Personal pleasure is also something to consider. There is nothing wrong with doing something just because you gain personal satisfaction from it!

The future of all gamers?
And then there is the big one, social skills. Most of us have an image in our head of the awkward teenage boy sat at his computer or other gaming system, unable to socialize with the real world so he finds his friends online. However, this is actually contrary to what research is showing. Video games can actually set the foundation for friendships, with research showing that knowing someone online makes you more likely to help them in the real world. A lot of online games also offer the opportunity to engage in cooperative play involving verbal communication and/or written communication.

Sounds like a parents dream come true right? Well, not exactly. Like everything there is a bright side and a dark side. For instance, research with girls showed that girls who play video games with their parents tended to behave better while this was not the case for boys. Finding appropriate content for younger children can also be something to think about. Sites such as Common Sense Media help by giving you a way to research games by name. Behavioral, sleep issues, and other issues are also linked to too much TV time. The AAP recommends no more than 1-2 hours per day of screen time (anything on a screen).

So what is my verdict? Don't be afraid to pull out that game if that is what your child enjoys! As with any other activity, be it reading, eating, playing outside, or watching TV, video games are fine in moderation and can actually be beneficial to your child. My children engage in a little more than the recommended time, but that decision comes from a personal knowledge of what my children can handle and also includes their specifically educational screen time.

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Heather @ Marine Corps Nomads said...

Very interesting. My daughter and husband have enjoyed bonding while playing video games while he recovers from surgery. We too go over the recommended screen time per day, but I do monitor things and cut back if I see an issue. Thanks for the interesting post.

purple squirrel said...

;). I probably won't let my kids read this blog post. They would see the benefits and forget the negatives... However, I will enjoy the knowledge that their screen time may be helpful... ;)

Thanks for posting!

Our Village is a Little Different said...

My boys love video games. You're right. Like you, I think that if the parents are informed about content and enforce moderation, video games aren't so bad.

Ginger Sanches said...

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