Games and SportsKids and Teens

8 useful effects of online video games on children

Parent-approved online video games can help with educational, social, and physical development

Here is a text from Dr. Cheryl Olson, an expert on healthy behavior change and child development. She is an assistant clinical professor at the department of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and co-author of the book: Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth About Violent Video Games, and What Parents Can Do .

Why video games can be useful for children

As parents, we are used to focusing more on the potential dangers than on the potential benefits of video games.  If you know how to choose them, they could be a great tool for the benefit of children in the development of certain life skills.

And they themselves could help parents choose the right leisure game, teachers in ways to diversify classroom learning, and video game developers in creating educational games.

I recently completed my work “Motivations in children to play video games in the context of normal development”, included in the Periodical for General Psychology. My research included the results of research I conducted at Harvard Medical School, as well as data collected from interviews with more than 1,000 students in the public education system.

Based on my research, I offer you eight reasons why video games can be useful for your child’s growth and education.

1. Increasing creativity and problem-solving skills


Video games can help develop a child’s brain. When my son was in his early teens, I watched him play The Legend of Zelda. He had to seek, negotiate, plan, and try all sorts of approaches to move forward.

Many of the latest games, such as Bakugan: Defenders of the Core, involve planning and problem-solving.

“Modding” – the process by which players develop the characters in the game at will and unfold new levels – also gives way to creative self-expression, an in-depth understanding of the rules of the game and its structure, and new ways of shaping the character. and interests.

The game does not have to be labeled “educational” to help children learn to make decisions, implement strategies, face consequences, and express their personalities.

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2. Awakening interest in history and culture

The content of some games can encourage children to read and study. Video games such as “Age of Mythology”, “Civilization” and “Age of Empires” can ignite in a child a spark of interest in world history, geography, ancient cultures, international relations, especially if parents take advantage of these opportunities.

As researchers David Shaffer and James Guy say: “When there are parents who help turn the Age of Mythology into an island of knowledge by connecting the game with books, sites, museums and movies about mythology, culture and geography, children get a rich palette knowledge of complex language, content and interrelationships that will serve as preparation for future study of much more serious and in-depth things. ”

Moreover, these games often allow children to create on their own or exchange cards or other special content, helping to acquire creative and technical skills while having fun.


3. Help in making new friends

Unlike their parents, many children see video games as a social activity, rather than one that isolates them. They give something in common, on the basis of which children can make friends, go out or spend time together in a certain way.

In addition, young boys say that video games are a common topic of conversation with their peers. In our study it became clear that children with mild learning difficulties usually choose as a reason to play video games precisely the opportunity to make new friends.

4. Encouraging physical activity

In my study, video game players (especially boys) talked about learning new movements from sports games and applying them while playing basketball or skateboarding. Some have even started playing new sports after learning about them from the games.

As one of the children in the focus groups shared: “In realistic games, most of which are sports, you see the characters doing amazing things. If you go out, try them and then practice, you can get better. ”

The study showed that playing realistic sports video games (excluding combat tournaments here) leads to increased time for sports and exercise in real life.


5. Opportunity to share the joy of competition

It is normal and healthy for children, especially boys, to compete with their peers as they try to reach a certain position or recognition. In my research and focus group data, one of the most popular reasons to play video games, again, especially among boys, was, “I would like to compete with other people and win.”

Best io games are a safe place where these competitive urges can be expressed, and they can also allow children who are not very good at sports to excel.

6. Development of leadership qualities

When children play in a group, they usually take turns leading and following, depending on who has the necessary skills for a game. In Nick Yee’s research at the Palo Alto Research Center, teens who play in a group online feel they are gaining leadership skills to persuade and motivate others, as well as to mediate disputes.

Online multiplayer games allow children to participate, and sometimes lead, a team of players of all ages. And no one cares how old you are when you manage to lead the team to victory.


7. Learning skills

Perhaps one-third of the children we surveyed said they play in part because they like to teach others how to play. As the boy’s father shared during the study: “Most of the communication my son has with his friends involves solving problems from a game. How to get from one place to another or to gather certain things that you need and combine them so that you succeed in the online video games. ”

Some children earn the respect of others as the “person to turn to” because he knows how to go through the most difficult part of the game. Training builds social and communication skills, but also teaches patience.

8. Parents and children together

I recently witnessed my friend’s 10-year-old daughter teach her to play Guitar Hero. There were my friend’s favorite songs in the game from her adolescence and college years that attracted her.

The most fun part was watching the daughter become an expert sharing her skills with her mother, which is a reversal of the traditional parent-child role. Now that there are many games that are easy for “newbies”, the opportunity to spend time with our children while playing increases.

In addition, playing side by side facilitates conversation, which can help your child share problems and joys with you.

We accept online video games for activities that do not develop our thinking and do not lead to intellectual progress, even for the manifestation of laziness. However, the research team found a significant improvement in the cognitive abilities of the players, especially in terms of spatial orientation, causal relationships, memory and perception . And this is completely true of the same games that terrify parents, those of goal-scoring and shooting that abound with scenes of violence.

Experts came to an unexpected conclusion at a conference of the American Psychological Association, specifically dedicated to the topic of the impact of online video games and interactive media on the psyche of children and adolescents. The debates were raised in order to reconsider attitudes towards them due to an extensive study, which is expected to be completed in 2014.

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