It has come up countless times in the last 20 years how kids relate to video games. Do they desensitize our children to violence? Do they kill brain cells, or encourage lazy children to stay on the couch rather than play outside or form relationships? Considering that both my husband and I have enjoyed video games since childhood, I tend to have not only strong opinions on these issues, but like to think that I am somewhat well-informed. I think what it comes down to is deciding how each particular factor will affect your child, and acting accordingly.
Most parents are very aware of how their children cope with certain issues, and what their likely reaction will be. They are also typically very aware of their system of beliefs and morals, and what they do and do not want their child experiencing. Therefore, you can very easily say, “I see no harm in my child enjoying educational or certain recreational video games for _ hours a week, but I don’t want them playing any games with excessive violence.” Which, I’d like to point out for those of you who don’t already know is really a non-issue at this point anyway. Most games that I DO believe rub on the moral fiber of our society (such as the Grand Theft Auto series- which, while fun/funny if you are old enough and intelligent enough to not take seriously, is incredibly inappropriate for most children under the age of 18) are now restricted with an “M” rating, not available to anyone under 17 to even purchase, and that is a VERY strictly enforced rule (the fine and prison sentence are both more severe than purchasing alcohol for a minor in the US).
What I think in short terms is that in most cases video games are incredibly useful. Starting at a young age a child can learn how to read, spell, write, critically think and problem solve pretty self-sufficiently. Although they are not the “all-powerful teaching tool” many resources would have you think, they can be great for teaching children to think for themselves, solve problems on their own without someone to fall back on, and give them a kind of comfort and familiarity with technology that is invaluable in the modern world. It is a proven fact that a child with multiple outlets for learning- books, television, games, computers, social relationships- will have a more developed vocabulary, more efficient thinking skills, and more articulate speech. Although sometimes not as prevalent, video games can also teach a sense of responsibility, increase hand-eye coordination, and inspire creative thinking.
Given all of this, I would have to say that what I honestly believe it comes down to (as it usually does) is good parenting. If you are responsible enough to consider the effects of video games on your child in the first place, then I’m sure parents are dedicated enough to know when their child’s experience has passed from “educational/enjoyable” and into unhealthy and burdensome. Much like having dessert, video games are fantastic in moderation, and when experienced in the appropriate format can only enhance a child’s learning environment.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this issue!
- Ask the Expert | James Paul Gee on Video Games and Learning (learning.blogs.nytimes.com)