As a parent or caregiver, your primary concern is keeping children safe, out of harm’s way and making sure they develop into healthy well-balanced individuals. So, it’s no surprise that images of men with guns and virtual cities being blown up trouble you and make you question your child’s choice of entertainment. Video games are an easy way to keep children occupied for a few hours so you can have some time to catch up on chores or reply to emails. But, many parents worry about the potential negative impacts of video gaming. The research varies and does not always provide much conclusive evidence, however, this article by BBC gives some interesting insights and much needed clarity on the issue.
“In a research environment that is often polarised between those who believe games have an extremely beneficial role and those who link them to violent acts, this research could provide a new, more nuanced standpoint. – Experimental psychologist Dr Andrew Przybylski
The study conducted by Oxford University reports that playing violent video games for long periods of time can distort adolescents’ sense of ‘right and wrong’. However, many people would argue that a moral compass is a social construct and what is morally correct in one culture may not necessarily reflect the norm elsewhere.
The study also found that empathy, trust and concern for others, which should develop as teenagers grow up, were delayed in youngsters who were over-exposed to violent video games. This points to the fact that beyond developing a sense of right and wrong, excessive video gaming affects children on a developmental level.
On the other hand, the study also suggests that limited playing of video games may actually boost children’s learning, health and social skills. Researchers asked children how much time they spent gaming on a typical school day – either using consoles or computers. Subsequently, they rated a number of factors, ranging from satisfaction with their lives to hyperactivity and inattention. The results suggest that youngsters who played video games under an hour each day were satisfied with their lives and showed the highest levels of positive social interactions. The group also had fewer problems with emotional issues and lower levels of hyperactivity.
Additionally, this research found that children who spent more than three hours playing games were the least well adjusted.
Some potential benefits….
Problem solving and logic
Video games that are interactive and involve making quick decisions help improve problem-solving skills. If you have observed young people playing video games, you would agree that the challenges of the games bring about an alertness in them. These challenges provide an opportunity for sharpening their quick-thinking skills and the ability to adapt to any circumstance. Some games require decision making skills in order to conquer challenges, which may enhance player’s logic and reasoning skills.
Hand-eye coordination, motor and spatial skills
Most video games require a great deal of eye-hand coordination and visual spatial ability to be successful. Especially shooting games, which require the real-world player to keep track of the position of the character – where he/she is moving, his speed, where the gun is aiming, and so on.
As playing a video game also involves tracking real-time movements of many shifting variables and managing multiple objectives, it helps boost the cognitive function, and, in particular, multitasking ability in young players.
Negative effects of video games
The effect of video games in children are more likely to be aggressive, particularly those who favour violent ‘shoote-em-up’ games, as reported in this article. Additionally, a review of almost a decade of studies (in the same article) found that exposure to violent videogames was a risk factor for increased aggression.
Too much video gaming makes your child socially isolated, as he/she may spend less time on other activities such as doing homework, reading, sports and interacting with family and friends.
Poor performance in academics
The time spent playing video games can affect academic performance negatively, as many players routinely skip homework to play games.
Safeguarding your children online
Parentzone has listed some tips on helping your child play safe:
- You can allow your children to play for about an hour a day, which is the ideal amount of time to spend on gaming. Also, it’s best to intervene if your child’s gaming interferes with his/her homework, offline friendships or sleep.
- Most of the games need to be purchased online, you can thus use parental controls to disable or require permission for purchases.
- Inform your children about the dangers of downloading suspicious files that could lead to contact with strangers online.
- Ensure that you speak to your child if they look worried after playing a game online. Do not ban games immediately if they come to you with a concern, as this can feel like a punishment and discourage them to ask for your help.
Video games can enhance your child’s overall development or hamper it, depending on how much time they spend playing. But, if you’re afraid that your child might be getting addicted or gaming is having a negative impact, then it’s time to set limits around video game use. To know more about e-Safety and other topics related to safeguarding children online, follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter.