There’s no debating the fact that kids love video games. Be careful when you pull out your phone near a small child because the first thing they’ll ask you is “What games do you have?”. In our technologically-driven culture, we’re kind of doing our kids a disservice by shaming them for playing video games. It has become as inbuilt in their lives as playing outside and scraping elbows was for the children of yesteryear.
The problems arise when video gaming is ALL they’re doing. When children become addicted to video games and spend more time on the screen than in real life, that is when some boundaries need to be enforced. However, video games are also an incredible learning tool and can actually equip kids with practical skills needed for everyday life.Just like everything else, video games have both pros and cons.
When used in a healthy way, video games can benefit a child’s mental wellbeing and encourage critical thinking skills.
- Improved brain development
Many games (even the ones that appear silly, repetitive, or even violent) help support brain function by exercising children’s reasoning and problem-solving skills.
They encourage the gamer to make snap decisions, process information quickly, and be able to multitask. These executive functioning skills are sharpened through regular game use and can encourage healthy brain development in kids and teens.
There are many popular games that involve puzzle-solving activities and exercises related to math, geography, and grammar.
Video games make it easier for kids to learn and retain educational content. In fact, studies have found that when video games are used in the classroom, teachers see improved test scores across the board.
- Life skills
Games like Minecraft and Fortnite can actually teach kids basic life skills such as saving money, sourcing material to build structures, bartering, communication skills, teamwork, basic driving skills, and survival tactics.
Resourcefulness is an important life skill, and games can help aid in its development and ability to adapt to challenging situations.
- Increased creativity
Video games transport you into another world. While some may fear this escapism can be detrimental to a child’s health, it’s actually a fantastic way to boost creative thinking. A study of 500 children found that the more they played video games, the more creative they were in tasks such as drawing, writing stories, and crafting. Video games encourage out-the-box thinking and can help kids develop a broader perspective on the world around them.
Without a proper balance, video games can have a negative impact on children’s health and development.
- Social isolation
Spending hours cooped up inside with just a screen as entertainment can make some children prone to social isolation. Some children can become so engrossed in their game world that they neglect their friendships and relationships in the real world. If this is the case, parents can encourage their kids to engage in interactive video games with online friends as well as regular real-world opportunities for socialising with friends and family to help battle feelings of loneliness.
- Gamers wrist
Like texting thumb, regular video gamers are prone to wrist strain and pain. Hours of repetitive movements and poor posture can damage tendons and nerves in the thumbs, wrists, forearms, elbows, neck, and back resulting in chronic pain or discomfort. Prevent children from developing gaming-related injury by encouraging them to sit in a supported chair and to take a screen break every half an hour or so to stretch.
One of the main cons of children gaming is when there’s more than one child in the household. This can easily lead to arguments about who’s getting more game time or who’s hogging the internet. If you’ve got multiple people in the household, then each person using the internet is going to take some of the connection speed for themselves. So if you’ve got two people looking to play online games at the same time, then you’ll want a connection that’s 10-20Mbps. If you find that your internet speed is lagging, the first thing to do is to reset your router. If that doesn’t work, follow this checklist to troubleshoot and fix the lag.
Video game addiction is real. Most games are designed so that you keep playing them, and reward you for each stage or task that you complete. This can cause kids to become cyber-hooked and potentially develop behaviours such as poor impulse control, lethargy, depression, aggression, and poor learning outcomes at school. Combat video game addiction by taking an active role in helping your kids understand that video games are designed to be addictive and that the consequences can be hurtful to their health, school, work and relationships.
Take the ‘everything in moderation’ approach
Like all good things in life, video games are fine in moderation. They can help children learn more about the world around them, as well as develop important life and problem-solving skills. It’s when gaming life starts to mix into real life where things get messy. Video game addiction, if left unchecked, can have negative consequences on a child’s life. But this doesn’t mean video games should be banned altogether. Allow your child to play recreationally, and make sure that you have open dialogue around the pros and cons of regular gaming to help them make better healthier choices.