From Pac-man to Pokemon, from Call of Duty to Candy Crush, electronic games have always been a passion for some and a subject of controversy for others. The debate on whether such games are good or bad for children has been going on for some time, with no signs of stopping or coming to a definite conclusion any time soon!
Nonetheless, let us take a look at some of the more recent updates from both sides of the fence, so that we can make our own educated decision on the matter.
The Facebook CEO has spoken
In a talk in his New York hometown on May 15, 2015, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed that his sisters’ unwillingness to let him join their snowball fights when they were children was what drove him to create his very own snowball fight video game.
“I do think this dynamic around kids growing up, building games and playing games, is an important one because I think this is how a lot of kids get into programming,” he said. “I definitely wouldn’t have gotten into programming if I hadn’t played games.”
He went on to say that some of the best engineers he knows have been self-taught, like himself. Hence, he believes that parents should allow their children to play video games, as they are a useful platform for learning as well as entertainment.
But what does science say?
If the possibility of your child growing up to become a tech guru worth billions of dollars does not intrigue you, there are claims of the benefits of games from researchers that may be of interest.
There are educational electronic games out there, which could be of benefit especially to children who learn better through visual cues, sounds and animations. For example, speech therapy normally incorporates verbal exercises that some children may find boring or tedious. These days, however, games are developed with children undergoing speech therapy in mind. They may be colourful characters acting as lively virtual speech therapists, or visual effects to liven up verbal exercises. Thus, these games would be able to engage the child’s attention and interest better.
What about other children who do not have special educational needs? In 2014, Dr Andrew K Przybylski released the result of a study conducted by the University of Oxford to the journal Paediatrics.
The study, which involved “a large number of children and adolescents” who played video games, found that those who played video games for less than 1 hour every day had higher level of satisfaction with life and better social behaviour. They also have fewer problems in expressing or internalising their problems.
Addiction is the downside
Electronic game addiction is a matter of serious concern, as it can cause the child to spend hours, sometimes days, caught up in a game. Addiction opens up a whole world of problems, such as falling behind in school, poor social skills, becoming overweight or obese, neglecting to eat proper meals and more.
Not every child is at risk of becoming addicted, of course. Therefore, it looks like the most sensible thing that we as parents can do is to ensure that our children play electronic games in moderation, so that they get the best without being drawn into the bad.
- Watch what they play. Place the game console in the living room, so that older family members can keep track of what your child plays as well as how long he or she has been playing.
- Research the games. Games from the US and UK have advisory labels if they contain mature elements, so watch out for those. For other games without advisory labels, check game review sites to determine whether they are appropriate for your child.
- Be wary of online/mobile games. Many of these games are designed to make players either spend a lot of time playing – hence increasing the risk of addiction – or spend real money to advance further. Your child may not be mature enough to resist either temptation, so discourage them from playing such games.
- Set a good example. Your children are more likely to abide by the “not more than 1 hour a day” rule if they do not see Mummy and Daddy playing Candy Crush all the time. So, limit your own game time too. In fact, it will be good for you too, as even adults can become addicted to games!
Business Insider. Available at www.businessinsider.my
Przybyski, AK. (2014). Electronic gaming and psychosocial adjustment. Pediatrics; 134:3.
Santa Cruz Sentinel. Available at www.santacruzsentinal.com
WebMD. Available at www.webmd.com