When I was a kid, I wasn't allowed to play video games. Not to make myself sound deprived or anything…my mom simply believed it was a waste of energy and our time was better spent outdoors.
Have I mentioned that we lived near Seattle? Where it rained 320 days out of the year? My sister and I got pretty inventive with ways to keep ourselves occupied.
I never thought my own kids would play video games until I married Nate, Mr. Modern Warfare. He believes in setting limits on game time, but has always claimed that it helped him develop creativity and critical thinking skills as a kid. He's a strong believer in the benefits of video games. I was skeptical, but Activision invited me to a summit to discuss the benefits of video games for kids (particularly for girls). I went with an open mind, interested in hearing both sides, and was really impressed at the number of in-depth studies that have been done on the subject. Here are a few benefits we discussed in depth:
- Particularly for girls, playing video games can help develop a strong sense of personal ability. One BYU study showed that girls who play video games with their parents behave better and actually have better family connections.
- Video games help children process information quickly. Being forced to make multiple decisions quickly in a virtual world helps children deal with similar circumstances in real life.
- Video games teach determination and help children learn that they can overcome failures. Gamers spend up to 80% of their game time failing.
- One of the benefits of limited video game time is that it can be used as a reward and to provide some relaxation after an eventful day. Just as I like my occasional mindless session of The Bachelorette after a busy day, gaming can be an outlet for kids to keep them from feeling overwhelmed.
- Multi-player games can be a social bonding tool. On days when the weather isn't great, kids can enjoy some action-filled adventure indoors (even in small spaces).
I did also learn some statistics that saddened me a bit. Did you know that 42% of children under 8 have a TV in their bedroom? Holy cow. I personally feel that the bedroom is a place for personal time and relaxation (although Some Boy's nursery functions as our “nursery/office” so who am I to talk?). After discussing it and thinking it over, however, my opinion on video games has changed slightly. As with anything, video games should be played in moderation. But there are some really cool video games out there that marry accessible content with high-quality game mechanics, and it's easier than ever to check if a game is age-appropriate for your kids. Common Sense Media offers detailed age and value-based ratings.
If I've learned one thing since becoming a parent, it's that I need to keep a more open mind. This is one instance in which my hard-and-fast parenting plans are being modified somewhat now that I've actually become a parent. I can understand that things have changed since I was a child – video games have become far more engaging and dynamic. They aren't the isolating single-person experiences they were when they were first conceived and there are a lot of benefits to video games.
I'm not losing sight of my overall values. We eliminated cable television before Some Boy came along in favor of selectively streaming shows and movies that we can all enjoy together. I personally believe that the gaming experience, much like the TV-watching experience, should largely be time spent together as a family. What do you think? Does your family have any particular video game rules, and have you seen any benefits of video games?