When video game consoles like Nintendo and Sega first came out, advocates of gaming claimed that these games were good for kids because they helped them develop hand-eye coordination. Regardless of what you think about this claim, it is undeniable that today’s video games have come leaps and bounds from those original games.
Today’s games offer multi-sensory experiences which allow for interactive learning.
Alan Gershenfeld, the founder and president of the digital game publishing group E-Line Media, makes interesting points about the educational aspects of video games.
At the event, Game On! Texas Gershenfeld said that video games enable players to step into another person’s shoes, make choices, and explore consequences, all of which are skills needed for life in the 21st century.
Video Games in Education
Interestingly, Gershenfeld wasn’t just talking about the games promoted as educational such as those math or vocab games. For example, he spoke about the failure aspect of games. Nearly all video games online and on consoles involve a lot of failures.
The player must spend a lot of time figuring out how to solve a problem, failing at that problem, and reassessing the approach until success is achieved.
Today’s video games are often very complex, and it is no small mental feat to figure out ways to overcome the problems of failure. This experience of try-fail-try again can be applied to daily life. Gershenfeld compared this to the scientific method.
Why Video Games are Good for Kids?
Gershenfeld is right when saying that anything can be taught through video games and online games. One example he gives is statistics, such as when kids must figure out how many people playing a game got to each level and where most of the players died.
Even if the kids aren’t aware of it, they are getting this knowledge. He is working with a program called Institute of Play, in which kids design their games.
To make a video game, you have to know even more than to play it. Kids have to master concepts such as gravity, math analysis, and engineering.
Despite Gershenfeld’s advocacy of games, the consensus is still that most games are bad for children. Many experts claim that online games and video games keep children from having real experiences and developing social skills.
Because of these claims, a lot of educators are reluctant to use online games in their classrooms.
Gershenfeld also addresses this view of gaming. He realistically says that the problem with games is that they can become addictive.
Parents need to set limits to game playing but not let those limits interfere with the educational aspects. Since online games are a learning, interactive experience, it doesn’t make sense to set exact time limits on game playing daily.
It would be counterproductive to jump in right as a child is making a critical decision in the game.
Gershenfeld doesn’t answer how parents should deal with the balance between game addictiveness and education – it is something that each parent will have to figure out on an individual level.
How Much Time is Playing Games Too Much?
In the past, parents had to worry about their kids spending too much time watching TV. Now, an even bigger threat has sprung up like a storm: online video games.
According to Pangea Media and YPulse, in 2009, 77% of kids 8-15 years old would rather stop watching TV than give up their internet time.
Unlike TV, which has a limited selection of programming, the internet offers a huge range of video games, movies, and other entertainment. It is much harder to regulate what kids access when online and what video games they are playing.
Most parents agree that time playing internet video games should be limited. However, there is no consensus as to how much time playing online games is acceptable.
The disparity in opinions undoubtedly has to do with the fact that many online games are very useful to children. There are numerous games designed to help kids hone their math skills, improve vocabulary, type faster, or even develop a sense of self.
Because internet games can be played with multiple people, they can also be very social, especially beneficial for kids living in isolated areas.
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How Many Hours of Video Games is Too Much? Does it Matter?
While there is no set answer to how much time playing online games is acceptable, there are some signs that your child has exceeded what is healthy for him/her. The line between a video game addiction and simple enjoyment can often be thin.
Still, if you see that your child is withdrawing from other activities that he formerly enjoyed playing video games online, he may have the start of a problem.
Other signs of a gaming problem include being constantly online, having trouble turning off video games, and being in a bad mood except when playing games online.
Do realize that all children have difficulties turning off an online game. Not only are the games often very stimulating, but children have different brains than us.
They don’t have the mental capacity to limit themselves until they are in their 20s. Only then does the “off switch” become completely developed.
Parents should not be strict when telling children to turn off the video games and seeing that they follow through.
Here are some tips to help parents set limits on video game playing:
- Make rules early on and stick to them. Kids aged 6-9 should not spend more than 60 minutes playing games online daily. Other kids should have their gaming time gradually increased as appropriate.
- Only allow one activity at a time. If your kids are on the computer, then the TV should be off.
- Homework must be completed before kids are allowed to play video games.
- Offer alternatives to computer games. Many parents use the computer as a babysitter for their children, leading to development problems. Encourage your children to play outdoors, read books, play other games – and try to participate in the fun with them.