Why You Should Let Your Kids Play More Video Games
Dec 22, 2017
Much like television, the topic of whether video games are good for your child or not has been discussed and debated for many years. Kids will always be drawn to video games, just as they used to play jacks and marbles for fun, today’s modern child is acclimated to all things digital.
Personally, having grown up with a father in the military and a mother who was working around the clock, I needed ways to entertain myself. Since I liked having a creative outlet, I was drawn to drawing, reading and, eventually, playing video games.
By playing video games, I would become the fearless hero, going on adventures, taking on challenges and eventually defeating the mighty video game boss (or villain). To a child, this sounds amazing, but to some parents, this aspect still raises some eyebrows.
What’s So Bad About Video Games Anyway?
It makes sense to worry about any behavior that could seem addictive or isolating – video games included. Many parents have concerns about their children spending too much time indoor, eyes glued to a TV screen. Some common concerns that make parents concerned about video games are:
Parents worry about the potential dangers of their kids becoming overly immersed in playing games, with concern that their children may be living too much of their lives in the 3D and virtual worlds.
Is the content appropriate for their child’s age group? Like movies or music, if the game contains violence, parents are concerned their child may be exposed to inappropriate language or behavior.
Safety & Health
Parents are concerned that their children might become couch potatoes and won’t get enough exercise. Anti-social concerns are also linked to this as well.
How Can Parents Know What’s Safe?
Many of these concerns can be monitored and regulated at the parent’s discretion. Did you know that there is a rating system for video games? You can consult the ratings guide, courtesy of Entertainment Software Ratings Board below.
VIDEO GAME RATING CATEGORIES
(From left to right)
Content is intended for young children.
Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
Content is generally suitable for ages 10 and up. May contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.
Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood, and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
Content suitable only for adults ages 18 and up. May include prolonged scenes of intense violence, graphic sexual content and/or gambling with real currency.
Not yet assigned a final ESRB rating. Appears only in advertising, marketing and promotional materials related to a physical (boxed) video game that is expected to carry an ESRB rating, and should be replaced by a game's rating once it has been assigned.
3 Surprising Benefits of Video Games
Have you ever heard the term video games and beneficial in the same sentence? Probably not. Usually, when people think about video games they picture players as the mindless zombies, but there are some surprising benefits you may not be aware of.
Today’s games offer more substance with more challenging concepts, strategies and advance graphics than what I played as a kid. Minecraft: Pocket Edition, for example, is a wildly popular game that encourages kids to explore their creativity through a video game interface while still having fun. According to CNBC, there are over 998,000 kids and adults playing Minecraft, where players can create their own virtual universe using building blocks.
CNBC reports, “Parents and educators alike have discovered that this game is more than just a mindless activity that possesses kids. It is actually an innovative educational tool that inspires, educates and builds 21st-century skills that help children in school and in their future professions—especially in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math), where interest is lagging.”
According to research by Michigan State University Scholars, a study of nearly 500 12-year-olds found that “the more kids played video games, the more creative they were in tasks such as drawing pictures and writing stories.”
As I grow older, I see exactly how much imagination is tied to my own creativity – and how I’ve been able to nurture and grow my creative talents. Playing video games actually allowed me to think outside the box. Because of the exposure I had to role playing, problem-solving and logic games growing up, my overall cognitive skills improved. Self-expression is the key here, and by letting it flourish, your children can benefit – regardless of the outlet they choose.
Helps the Brain with Processing Speeds and Memorization
By playing video games, you are constantly challenged and pushed to reach new levels – each one more difficult than the last. As a player, if you fail to adapt to the new level or increase your skill set, you won’t be able to finish the game. Therefore, you’re always striving to improve. This very concept encourages kids to think critically, assess situations, develop pattern recognition and make informed decisions.
Because of my own honed video game skills, whenever I took tests at school, I immediately looked for patterns to help me think through problems and used my memory recall skills to help me memorize key points in class lectures.
A study by The University of California, Irvine (UCI) supports this, as they explain the connection between that of 3D video games and the brain.
Craig Stark for UCI’s Center for Neurobiology of Learning & Memory, explains how “Video games are not created with specific cognitive processes in mind but rather are designed to immerse users in the characters and adventure. They draw on many cognitive processes, including visual, spatial, emotional, motivational, attentional, critical thinking, problem-solving and working memory.”
Allowing your children to play video games enhances their memorization and problem-solving skills and remember – the more immersive a video game is, the more potential your child will have to learn.
Increases Social Behavior
Video games are surprisingly social these days.
When I was a kid, gaming was more of a solitary pastime, since interactivity was limited without an online connection. Now, kids all over the world can play video games with each other; friends can share replays of their best video game moments on Twitch or YouTube and a world of social connections are available within community chats built into many games.
Gaming isn’t just limited to playing in the same room anymore, kids can also group up and play online with one another. Online multiplayer games give kids a chance to participate, and sometimes even lead, a diverse group or team – enhancing their leadership, coaching and teamwork skills. All of which strike bonds with other players and make the experience that much more social.
As GeekWired explains in an article about the subject, “Playing video games is today, even more so than in the past two decades, a highly social activity for most children as the vast majority of children play their video games with a friend… Some games explicitly reward effective cooperation, supporting and helping behavior.”
Video Games Can Be Beneficial – in Moderation
There are many reasons why video games can be a benefit for your child – and reasons why you may not be comfortable handing over the XBOX to them, too. Moderation is a good thing.
As with any digital consumption, it’s important to limit screen time for kids. Talk to them about how much time they currently spend playing games – whether it’s through a game console, smartphone or tablet.
97% of teens in the U.S. play video games – and the business is continuing to boom as digital natives grow up with technology in every part of their lives.
Video games aren’t going away anytime soon either, so the best way to deal with them is to stay informed. The more you know, the happier you and your kids will be. Below is a great starting checklist to help:
- Check the ratings of all games your child plays
- Set limits to how often & how long your child can play
- Keep video game equipment in shared spaces
- Enable parental controls for game consoles (see our article on How to Set Parental Controls for Nintendo Switch)
- Stay up-to-date with the newest video game consoles and see what is the best game console for kids
When in doubt, trust your gut. You know best what is suitable for your kids and what fits in with your own house rules, but just remember that video games are not the enemy… the video game villain is!