As a parent, the concept of gaming in the 21st century is very alien to me. Only 20 years ago I was growing up in the age of Sonic The Hedgehog and Super Mario Kart, and the question of whether games was bad for you raged even back then. Since then there has been Grand Theft Auto and Call Of Duty, games where the gritty realism has increased the interactivity, and the graphics have become very close to reality. But it begs the question, is gaming actually bad for our kids? The argument for and against it can be almost split down the middle. There are some perfectly good reasons for everyone to play games, and these are as follows:
They Are Good Your For Your Brain
Studies have shown that prolonged exposure to computer games have increased the so-called “gray matter” in children. They can expand the prefrontal cortex, cerebellum, and hippocampus, which are responsible for cognitive functions like strategic planning, motor functions, and formation of memories (specifically spatial memories) respectively. Allowing your children to spend a little time on their consoles is clearly showing some benefit and will help them (albeit in a roundabout way) to learn and retain information much better. So a bit of brain training in this respect will help them a long way in their studies.
They Are Good For Attention Problems
The focus required for playing video games, where you have to keep track of a moving object if you are playing a shooting game, or playing a racing game where a split second of diverted attention means losing the entire round, games can be very good at fixing problems in children. And it has real-life applications too, where you need to keep track of everything on the road while driving. It also helps with eyesight problems. In a study where people who had poor vision, even to the point of identifying faces, after playing a shooter game for 40 hours over a month long period, their vision improved to such an extent that they were able to read an extra one or two lines down on an optician’s eye chart!
They Can Make You Happier
Gaming has shown to help people develop improved wellbeing in children, specifically key factors like motivation, competency, and the ability to relate to others in a meaningful way. The latter one is very interesting because gaming has not been linked to increased social function before. Websites like Twitch have shown a massive increase in how people share their gaming experiences. It is, in general terms, a streaming platform like YouTube but dedicated to all things gaming, where you can create your own channel and show off your achievements as well as personalize your channel, so it becomes your identity. You can click here for information on how to make your own “banners” and personalize your own channels. While the jury is still out on multiplayer environments, playing games in your room by yourself has never been more sociable!
For the development of children, games can be an invaluable part of the learning process. For brain development and cognitive skills, having your children play computer games may not be as evil as it seems. But, of course, there are downsides to the whole thing…
Games Can Make Children More Aggressive
The results have been varied, but gaming has been shown to increase aggression and anger in people across the board. The more gaming people have taken part in has shown a decrease in behaviors like empathy and sociability. This predominantly applies to games that are of a “shoot-em-up” nature more than anything else, and with the strict age restrictions that apply to games now, it has helped limit this to children of certain ages. While this is not the desired outcome, this shows that the types of games you let your children play can have a big impact on their outlook on the world. This, of course, is nothing new. The debate about violence in video games has gone on for a long time, and the realism of games now in comparison to the pixelated looking games from the 1990s shows that the level of aggression has increased over time.
Games Can Make Children Less Empathetic
Games like Grand Theft Auto, where the concept revolves around theft, violence, and the depiction of women as sexual objects has shown that teenage boys are less sympathetic and compassionate, especially towards women. The difference between watching a movie where the leading character is sexist, and a game is that the player of the game is more linked to the character in every sense. You are playing the game and, therefore, you are in control of the character, and it can have an effect on how children are relaying their thoughts and feelings into these types of characters. Again, this is linked to games with a violent context instead of games with a softer message.
The debate will continue, and while the whole gaming etiquette has changed in the years since Pong and the ZX Spectrum, the concerns are still the same. Violence is still a major worry for parents, and as the games have increased their realism, the fact that teenage boys are very susceptible, and are very attracted to, the more violent games, it means that the content needs to be limited in some way. We need to put some tighter restrictions on how long our children play games for. And while some game playing is clearly very good for the development of children at a young age, we still need to limit the amount of playing. Little and often seems to be the solution here. And as children will bow to social pressure and seek out the latest games, the fact that the games become more realistic the older your kids get means that the lines between reality and fiction can be blurred slightly. But hopefully, these are more short-term effects on our kids rather than ones that will affect them for the rest of their lives.