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Video Games : Friend or Foe

 

gaming kids

With all the technology available to us, the question still remains, is playing video games good or bad? As video games wheel in to our children’s lives, parents have labeled them as “time-wasters”, “brain-damaging activities” and many other negative connotations.

 

More times then not, children’s anti-social behavior is blamed on video games. However, before making assumptions or jumping to any conclusions, I’d like to let you know that over the course of years  many scientists and psychologists find that video games can actually have many benefits. The main one is making kids smart.  Video games may actually teach kids high-level thinking skills that they will need in the future. According to University of Wisconsin psychologist C. Shawn Green, “video games change your brain.” Playing video games changes the brain’s physical structure the same way as learning to read, playing the piano, or navigating using a map. Much like exercise can build muscle, the powerful combination of concentration and rewarding surges of neurotransmitters like dopamine strengthen neural circuits that can build the brain.

To help you make an educated decision of whether or not to incorporate video games in your child’s life, here are a few positive effects of gaming technology proven by scientists and psychologists to help you decide.

Positive Affects of Video Games:

When your child plays video games, it gives his brain a real workout.  In many video games, the skills required to win involve abstract and high level thinking.  These skills are not even taught at school.  Some of the mental skills enhanced by video games include:

Following instructions, Problem solving and logic. When kids play games such as Angry Birds, they train their brain to come up with creative ways to solve puzzles and other problems in short bursts. They also improve hand-eye coordination, motor, and spatial skills. For examples, games that involve double tasking require the real-world player to keep track of the position of the character, where he/she is heading, their speed, where they are aiming, and so on. All these factors need to be taken into account, and then the player must then coordinate the brain’s interpretation and reaction with the movement in their hands and fingertips. This process requires a great deal of eye-hand coordination and visual-spatial ability to be successful.  Research also suggests that people can learn iconic, spatial, and visual attention skills from video games.  There have even been studies with adults showing that experience with video games is related to better surgical skills. Also, a reason given by experts as to why fighter pilots of today are more skillful is that this generation’s pilots are being weaned on video games.
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Quick thinking, making fast analysis and decisions.  Sometimes the player does this almost every second of the game giving the brain a real workout. According to researchers at the University of Rochester, led by Daphne Bavelier, a cognitive scientist, games simulating stressful events such as those found in battle or action games could be a training tool for real-world situations. The study suggests that playing action video games primes the brain to make quick decisions. Video games can be used to train soldiers and surgeons, according to the study. In addition to the action games, according to a study by the University of Rochester, video games train the brains of players to make faster decisions without losing accuracy. In today’s world, it is important to move quickly without sacrificing accuracy.

Video Games help develop reading and math skills. Yes, you did read that correctly! Young gamers force themselves to read to get instructions, follow story-lines of games, and get information from the game texts.  Also, using math skills is important to win in many games that involve quantitative analysis like managing resources.Also add pattern recognition to that list! Games have internal logic in them, and players figure it out by recognizing patterns.

Video games improve concentration.A study conducted by the Appalachia Educational Laboratory reveal that children with attention-deficit disorder who played Dance Dance Revolution improve their reading scores by helping them concentrate. Children are able to stay concentrated for long periods of time while playing video games and this technique translates onto other daily tasks.

Finally, my favorite positive quality of video games is that they make learning fun.   Your kid likes games because of the colors, the animation, the eye candy, as well as the interactivity and the challenge and the rewards of winning.  The best way to learn is when the learner is having fun at the same time.  That’s why video games are natural teachers.  Having fun gives your kid motivation to keep on practicing, which is the only way to learn skills. Video games are also capable of making difficult subjects such as math fun. Video games increase your kid’s self-confidence and self-esteem as he masters games.   In many games, the levels of difficulty are adjustable.  As a beginner, your kid begins at the easy level and by constant practicing and slowly building skill, he becomes confident in handling more difficult challenges.  Since the cost of failure is lower, he does not fear making mistakes.  He takes more risks and explores more.  Your kid can transfer this attitude to real life. Kids are not necessarily drawn to video games because of their violence. The attraction lies in their being rewarded by awesome displays of explosions and fireworks. Video games that require your kid to be active, such as Dance Dance Revolution and Nintendo Wii Boxing give your kid a good workout. When playing these active games for 10 minutes, your kid spends energy equal to or exceeding that produced by spending the same amount of time ona three miles an hour treadmill walk.

 

Having read all of these positives, try to give video games a second chance. This doesn’t mean letting your children play video games for hours on end. However, take the scientific findings and see how video games can fit into your children’s lives, for limited hours in the day. If the effects are truly there keep on keeping on!

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