One major concern for today’s parents is the effect that video games have on children. Like many other parental discussions this one tends to run into a very “black and white” division. People want a simple answer to a very complex question. So let’s look at this a little deeper.
Full disclosure: I was a teenage gamer myself
I was born in the 1980s and grew up as video games really started become a thing. One of my earliest memories was playing Doom with my father on the computer. My weekends were often spent on the Nintendo, riding around on Yoshi the dinosaur trying to collect gold coins. As I got older I moved into more story driven games, full of adventure, chemistry, and crafting. I made friendships, learned how to be a good leader as a guild master, and even met my future husband all through video games. While I probably didn’t get outside as much as I should have, I learned a lot from those games, and graduated top of my class.
What the research studies say
Video games became really popular in the 90s and research was focused on if violent video games made children violent. Most found there was no direct link between video gaming and psychological or academic issues. Violent video games may increase aggression in young children, similar to violent movies, or experiencing violence in life. Clearly it is more complex than a simple cause and effect.
Many studies found the issue had to be addressed on multiple dimensions: the amount of time children play games, the content of what they play, the game’s context, the structure of the game, and mechanics of game play all matter in the effect on the child. The studies also found that many video games were actually educational and beneficial to children.
Now I am a parent of gamers
Now it is my turn to question how much time my children should spend playing games. and which games they should be allowed to play. In my experience, both personally and with my children, video games are okay in moderation. Right now during quarantine it is a great way for them to keep in contact and have fun with their friends. It teaches them team work, perception, and they use logic to work through puzzles.
It is also a great bonding experience to play with my kids and have the whole family working as a team. None of the kids have shown any violence or aggression, but I sometimes find it difficult to get them unplugged to do chores. Of course they would probably rather stare at the wall than do chores, so I am not sure that is a valid comparison.
Overall I really think it is down to what your kids are playing, and how much of their day is spent sitting in front of the TV. If their room is covered in crumbs and they look like they might burst into flames in sunlight, it might be time to get them outside.