Here's a tricky question that is bound to stir up a conversation: are video games bad or good for kids? You could ask ten different people and get ten differently biased answers.
As parents, it is our job to make sure that our kids are surrounded by positive influences. Games like Call of Duty, Overwatch, Fortnite, and so on have really captivated the time and attention of the younger generation.
Many of these popular games have a first-person shooter premise along with many other scenarios that can seem violent in nature, if not worse. And as parents and as caretakers, it is very natural to fear this sudden onslaught of video games that seem to be taking the young minds by storm.
So, does exposure to such a seemingly disruptive form of entertainment actually harm our kids? Or are we simply reading too much into this, and should let kids just enjoy their downtime playing video games?
Well, fortunately, we have a lot of scientific studies conducted to ease our minds in this discussion. These studies have shown several benefits to playing video games along with the fun they provide.
Here is a list of reasons how video games can actually be helpful for the kids who play them.
Many multiplayer video games allow their users to plan strategies and implement them efficiently to advance to the next level. With research to back it up, Jane McGonigal, a renowned alternate-reality game designer, says that playing games like Call of Duty can increase visual attention and spatial intelligence skills. Other games like car races can help with making accurate decisions under pressure.
And role-playing games often include situations where the player has to analyze given information and extract meaningful conclusions from them. In other words, video games turn the gears in their mind, allowing them to develop some amazing problem-solving skills.
With years of schooling and exams ahead of them, having a good memory is very helpful for kids everywhere, and video games can definitely lend a hand in that. Studies affiliated to the Medical Research Council in the U.K. have shown that basic computer game training sessions are able to improve children’s neural connectivity and memory over a short period of time.
In another study done in 2015 mentioned in The Journal of Neuroscience, participants who played Super Mario 3D World for two weeks managed to do better in follow-up memory tasks than the ones who didn’t participate. So other 3D games like these, along with games like puzzles, trivia, mystery, role-play, and so on can definitely help kids with better visual processing and remembering various sequences, subsequently improving their memory function.
Video games are often shown as a passive anti-social activity, where people stay inside their rooms all day with the controller in their hands. But in fact, many video games provide kids with a platform to make new friends or develop communication skills.
Research conducted by the IBM Corporation, actually showed that the skills used in MMORPG (Massively Multi-player Online Role Playing Games) like Final Fantasy or World of Warcraft are basically the same as leadership skills required to run a modern company.
Online games like these and many others can be played with other friends to complete the given mission together, engaging kids in healthy group activities. And many of the online video games give people a community experience, where you can keep tabs of each others’ scores, or just hang out and have a chat.
So you get a chance to know people from all over the world, who are interested in the same thing as you.
There are many games available with historical premises where the players need to explore certain settings and gather information. Games like Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego? is a famous example that showed an entire generation of kids the beauty of exploring.
Other games like Age of Empires or Age of Mythology can teach kids to appreciate world history much more than their regular classes at school.
Researchers David Shaffer and James Gee agree. They say,
"When children have parents who help turn 'Age of Mythology' into an island of expertise, tying it to books, Internet sites, museums, and media about mythology, cultures, and geography, the children pick up a wide range of complex language, content and connections that serve as preparation for future learning of a highly complex and deep sort."
Believe it or not, video games can actually get kids into exercising. First of all, a lot of games with sports require some form of physical activity. Especially the active console video games that track players’ movements. And turns out, seeing these activities on the screen can get them to play more of the same sport in real life too.
There are many ways kids can get interested in practicing the cool moves they see their avatars do in the video games and try to achieve that through practice in their free time. So they not only get to play the games they love but also get to experience the real-life version of it, taking them out of their chairs and into the actual world.
I think many parents or adults in general truly feel the generation gap when it comes to them trying to learn how to play video games. But this can be a wonderful opportunity for bonding between family members, be it with siblings or parents. And playing games doesn’t always have to be a complicated thing.
There are a ton of video games out there that parents can enjoy with their kids. Take Ellen DeGeneres’ Heads Up! for example. It’s a simple guessing game app but it can guarantee tons of laughter for everyone involved. Or you could compete against one another to see who can slay their favorite songs in Guitar Hero.
In any case, it gives both of you more things to talk about and have conversations that otherwise might have not been initiated.
So, what do you think? Should kids be allowed to play video games? Post your thoughts in the comment section.