There’s still this myth that video games harm children both socially and intellectually. Things aren’t quite what they appear — and here’s why…
Of urban myths, video games, exercise and social interaction in the 21st century
Parents and the popular press are often quick to criticize, citing examples of kids sat zombified in front of the screen playing games all day and all night. So let’s approach the prickly subject of video games from the point of view of parental questions.
But playing video games doesn’t teach them anything, surely?
First of all, it’s highly likely that video games are not bad for us:
“Researchers are discovering that people who play video games are processing information more rapidly, are more able to multi task and quicker to assess situations and respond to them and are generally more mentally alert. So next time your partner or child is engrossed in a video game, don’t be tempted to complain, join in, not only will you run the risk of improving your brain power you might even have some fun too.”
Want more evidence that video games can have real, measurable benefits? Take the example of surgeons playing video games to be more precise:
“Surgeons who play video games three hours a week have 37 percent fewer errors and accomplish tasks 27 percent faster, he says, basing his observation on results of tests using the video game Super Monkey Ball.”
Ultimately, practice will only ever make perfect if applied correctly — there’s no point learning to speak Spanish if you don’t intend actually speaking Spanish at some point in your life. The same applies to any skills you’re likely to pick up while playing a video game.
But what about kids being sat about on their arses all the time — surely that’s no good?
True. Because of a whole slew of environmental and social issues, children are leading increasingly sedentary life styles. This is not good.
Again, the theory is that kids just don’t like physical play and to be active, which is nonsense. We just lack the imagination to conjure up stuff that’s engaging enough to meet with their imagination and the times we live in.
That all changed when Nintendo launched their wildly successful Wii, which transformed video gaming forever:
“My nephew told me of a work colleague of his who has a Nintendo Wii, and both he and his wife decided to play a boxing game. After a little less than half an hour, the two of them collapsed in a heap .. back on the settee! This kind of thing I love. It’s amazing, it really is.”
It would appear that the living room is the Backyard 2.0, likely to help combat — at least in some small way — the increase in childhood obesity, assuming Sony and Microsoft follow suit and include similar physical interactivity in their respective games consoles.
My kids come straight in from school, run upstairs with barely a word said and straight onto that damned video games console! What kind of social life is that?
This exclusionary argument against video games isn’t new. My parents said the same thing when I was a kid. This is still an argument I hear a lot of today and it’s so outdated as to be daft.
You take any of the the major games consoles, such as the Xbox, PlayStation and the Wii, and you’re going to find dozens of games titles that have a multiplayer option, with internet multiplayer probably being the most common of them all.
And then there’s the PlayStation Portable as well as Apple’s iPhone and iPod Touch — all portable games consoles, with multiplayer options.
Sure, kids aren’t always playing together in the same room, but they’re still playing together. Put in much simpler words, technology doesn’t not exclude people by default, only by design:
“I recently went to my sisters house to see my nephew. When I entered his room, he was sat there with three other friends playing a team game on his games console. That’s technology enabling group activities, not excluding people from participation.”
And let’s look at this from the point of view of the video games developers and the video console designers — why on Earth would they want to develop a product that excludes an audience? They want as many people to participate as is practically possible because that’s where the money is.
Because the internet and it’s great leveling of world geography, we now have friends scattered all around the world, as well as those who live next door, or just a few streets away. Whether parents like this or not, it’s the world their children live in.
What about all this talk of video games making kids more violent?
You have the popular press to thank for that myth, and by all accounts, video games inspiring children to violence is most probably nothing more than a myth:
“Media scare stories about gamers obsessed with violent games and many research reports that claim to back up the idea that virtual violence breeds real violence would seem to suggest so … However, Kierkegaard explains, there is no obvious link between real-world violence statistics and the advent of video games. If anything, the effect seems to be the exact opposite and one might argue that video game usage has reduced real violence.”
I go jogging and I go to the gym. I use this me time to flush out all of the negativity and physical stress that’s accumulated during the course of the day. In the same sense, I often play a video game to exorcise all of the mental negativity that’s built up over several days and sometimes weeks.
I do not play video games as practice, or as a prelude to killing someone I’ve taken a disliking to. Clearly we’re not all the same, but I’ve long suspected my take on video game usage is not too dissimilar to that of anyone else.
Seeing anti-social behaviour in children is rarely the cause of anything, but the effect of not being as attentive to their needs as we might otherwise be.
When my dad was a kid, him and his friends ran around pretending to shoot bullets and fire arrows at each other. Today, kids use laser beams and heat-seeking missiles.
And the difference is?