Our current era, which is concurred by technology, has benefited humankind on one hand but left them living in a dilemma on the other hand. We find ourselves living in a constant trial of catching up with the fast developing beneficial technology while trying to protect our children from its harm and negative consequences. What makes things worse is that studies come out looking at the same issues in different perspectives and analysis. The next epoch is the decade of the virtual world, and our children and grandchildren will be part of it. Video games, in particular, have been available for more than 30 years, but with the new sophistications and upgraded storyline, users find themselves immensely mesmerised in this virtual world! How good or bad are they for the young generation?
Recent studies reflect some advantages for certain games which people are obsessed with. One study in the American Psychologist, shows how video games, including some violent shooter games, can enhance children’s learning, social and health skills as well. They claim that such video games help children become quick problem solvers. When a player confronts a certain problem, he has a limited time to solve the issue and has to come up with the right decision to win the game. It is also mentioned how video games help a child accept defeat and learn how to cope with it. Spatial navigation, memory, reasoning and perception all fall under the umbrella of certain types of video games and can be boosted. www.apa.org/monitor/2014/02/video-game.aspx
Similarly, StarCraft, one of the most popular games created by Blizzard, requires gamers to have complex problem solving abilities, be able to make decisions and implement them at the rate of five actions a second. Moreover, it is expected of the consumers to have an unconscious understanding of economics and higher math – which includes differential equations, linear algebra, analytic geometry, and calculus. Isn’t that something?
Minecraft which is another famous video game tackles many concepts like logic, history, math, goal setting, and many other important notions. I came across an article written by Bec Oakley who explicitly describes its boundless advantages.
Jane McGonigal Ph.D. in Performance Studies is a world-renowned designer of alternate reality games, which means games that are designed to improve real lives and solve real problems. She believes that game designers are on a humanitarian mission where her number one goal in life is to see a game developer win a Nobel Prize in Peace or Medicine. In her presentation at TedTalk, she explains how game playing can make us create our own future and solve real world problems (www.ted.com/speakers/jane_mcgonigal). She sums up the importance of video gaming into four main categories:
The desire to act immediately to tackle an obstacle combined with a belief that we have a reasonable hope to success.
She explains how such games build trust, cooperation, and teamwork.
Gamers feel happier and more motivated as they feel themselves productive at doing something beneficial. Moreover, they are willing to work hard all along the time they are playing as they get instant feedback on their performance all through.
People simply love to be part of an epic story, and they get involved in it simply by being part of it.
Now our real concerns lie in knowing when we can expose our kids to the virtual world and what type of games they can play. The American Academy suggests that children under the age of three should not spend any time in front of the “screen” including television or Video Games (Ezine Articles). That may be unrealistic especially when you have other older kids who get engaged in screen in front of the little ones.
So when should children play video games? Which video games are age appropriate? And how can parents choose the age appropriate video game for their children? In my opinion, setting a balance between the virtual world and the physical outdoor play time helps in providing our children with a healthy lifestyle.
Here are a few tips that help in managing Media Consumption:
As with many issues in child rearing, setting limits and certain rules to video gaming would definitely help your child. After all, you cannot and will not cut them off from the reality we live in. They need to be exposed to it, but with limits. Lawrence E. Shapiro, Ph.D. who is an internationally recognized child psychologist and parenting expert suggests the following time limit for children. Thirty minutes a day for children between 3 and 5. One hour a day for children between 6 and 12, and two hours a day for teenagers.
Installing the equipment:
Having the video game equipment installed in the family room keeps us as parents more involved with what our children are doing.
Talk to your child:
Discuss the games your children play with. I usually ask them to tell me about the games they play, and I try to get myself as involved as possible. Having them express the feelings they get whilst playing makes them release any tension or violence if included. Moreover, explaining the ratings for them and clarifying why they should avoid certain games, make them accept and consent to the rules set for gaming.
Talk to other parents:
Sharing our worries and/or knowledge with other parents, gives us new insights about gaming in general.
As parents we can always guide our kids in choosing the right game which is age appropriate and knowing the rating of the video games leads them into virtually playing in an advantageous way. If you do have the time as a parent and you participate, they would enjoy the company much more and they would want to spend time with you and play together.
Finally, as parents, we need to be aware of the ratings and the child friendly video games suitable for the age group of our little ones. For example, The Amazing Spiderman is not a game designed for 10 year old children as shown here.
Below I included the rating symbols that are currently in use based on the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) Web site:
- Early Childhood (EC) Content should be suitable for children 3 years and older and contain no objectionable material.
- Everyone (E) Content suitable for persons ages 6 and older. The game may contain minimal violence and some “comic mischief.”
- Teen (T) Content suitable for persons ages 13 and older. Content is more violent than (E) rating and contains mild or strong language, and/or suggestive themes.
- Mature (M) Content suitable for persons ages 17 and older. Content definitely has more mature sexual themes, intense violence and stronger language.
- Adults Only (AO) Content suitable only for adults and may contain graphic sex and/or violence. Adult Only products are not intended for persons under the age of 18.
- Rating Pending (RP) Game has been submitted to the ESRB and is awaiting a final rating.
To sum it up, the more involved we are with the continuous and rapid development of technology the better the awareness we provide for our children, and that is their best weapon.