Raising children today is vastly different from ten years ago. Sure, children still love to crawl, build, play outdoors, and interact with others. However, our little ones are digital natives using technology and video games at rates we never imagined a generation ago. Right alongside their books and blocks, our children can’t recall a time without the Internet as they grow up living in a device and media rich culture.
This influx of smartphones, tablets, gaming systems, and laptops suddenly allow us access to video games from anywhere, at anytime. Even though this digital immersion has offered exciting opportunities to communicate and share information, it has also created some new problems for us to overcome as parents. Afterall, it’s hard to ignore the negative press, agony aunts, and childhood experts warning us about how all this swiping and tapping is impacting our children, especially if they play video games.
For years, video games have gotten a bad rap. Parents and society often equate this form of entertainment as a mindless and lazy way to waste time. We have all read or heard politicians and health experts warning about the correlation between video games and desensitizing violence, aggression, and physical inactivity. While there is some truth to this dark side of gaming, we need to take a step back, take a deep breathe, and look at the flipside of the issue.
The Positive Effects Video Games Have on Children
Surprisingly, current research is bucking the former misconceptions with many experts now proclaiming video games aren’t all bad. Studies are finding children who play video games might be benefitting in numerous ways. Evidence is mounting that our kids’ favorite pastime is actually improving cognitive function and boosting their mental processes.
Gaming’s long-lasting benefits improve a child’s perception, attention, memory, and decision making skills. These abilities are honed over and over as a child levels up or unlocks new worlds. Even though most of these studies are from across the pond, our little gamers are required to think rapidly, mentally multitask, retain tons of facts, process detailed information, focus, and formulate strategies. All of which are considered to be the foundation for building intelligence.
In addition to making our kids smarter, video games have also been shown to help children develop visual skills. These fundamentals can range anywhere from developing spatial awareness, noticing subtle shifts in shades of colour, treating Amblyopia (lazy eye), overcoming dyslexia, aiding hand eye coordination, and tracking moving objects in visual fields.
The Best Types of Video Games for Kids
The list of benefits is impressive, but we should note the type of games kids play are important factors in reaping those positive side effects. We need to carefully evaluate the types of games our children play and look for interactive games offering educational merit, ones that require more than just mindless clicking. Look for games that rely on a child’s thinking, problem solving, engineering skills, and higher level thought processes. Thankfully, there are a variety of engineering, science, technology, storytelling, historical, and mathematical games available to build these core learning concepts.
To help with this journey, look for the following ideal characteristics when choosing a child’s video game:
Multiple people can play to learn teamwork and social skills.
The format allows for more adaptable gaming experiences, providing different levels and modes of play.
It improves educational concepts or cognitive processes.
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5 Essential Video Gaming Tips for Parents
When it comes to video games and our children, we need to remember that moderation is key. Too much of a good thing can be detrimental, even if it is educational. To help us maximize the benefits of gaming, we can utilize the following tips:
Limit screen time. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that we place time limits for kids when it comes to media consumption. We need to make sure our children are getting enough sleep, being physically active, and participating in activities that don’t require a plugin.
Choose games that are age appropriate. Most parents choose to steer clear from the “M” rating, which is geared for the 17 and older crowd and is typically loaded with extreme violence, foul language, and sexual content.
Keep gaming consoles and devices in common living areas of the home.
Play along! Look for cooperative games that the whole family can take part in to bond and spend time with each other.
Begin an ongoing conversation about appropriate content, violence, and social media etiquette.