Computer Games - a Tool or Curse?

By:

Maya Fleifel Sidani - Clinical Psychologist

Computer Games - A Tool or Curse?

If you are a parent in this era of information and technology, chances are you have a child who has played, is playing, or will be playing video games.

Video games are mostly perceived as a time-waster that children love and parents hate. They're too violent, they get in the way of schoolwork, they slow social development... and the list goes on and on. However, the educational use of computer/video games received increased legitimacy and therefore can be a tool with the following benefits:

Cognitive benefits

The first thing one discovers in a game is that following directions is of the utmost importance. In order to progress in games, one must first learn to follow the guidelines, restrictions and components of them. As the player confronts new challenges, he must use problem-solving to find solutions. This is true for educational games, mind games, and (role-playing games alike. The player cannot get through with what they already have or know and must find new combinations and incorporate old skills with new skills to overcome obstacles such as the level or quest. The new educational system might rely on computer games, instead of the classical telling approach of teaching. Through video games and computer games, the learner can acquire strategy and anticipation, management of resources, how to judge the situation and practice reading, and quantitative calculations.

Gamers also get used to multitasking. As games become more intricate, players must juggle different objectives while keeping track of all the changing elements and connecting ideas. Games also induce quick thinking. studies found that people who play video games become more attuned to their environment and able to keep visual tabs on friends in crowds, able to navigate better and better at everyday things like driving and reading the small print. Playing games also “significantly helped in making correct real-world decisions.

Video games also increase hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills and spatial reasoning. For example, in shooter games, the player keeps track of their position, direction, speed, aim, results and more. The brain processes all this information and then coordinates with the hands since all actions are done through the controller or keyboard. These skills can be applied to real-world situations

Video Games Encourage Exercise

Players (specifically boys) learn new moves from sports video games and then practising them at the basketball court or on skateboards. Some take up new sports after being introduced to them in video games.

Video Games Let Kids Share the Joy of Competition

It's normal and healthy for kids, especially boys, to compete with their peers as they jockey for status and recognition. Video games are a safe place to express those competitive urges and can give children who aren't good at sports a chance to excel.

Video Games Give Kids a Chance to Lead

When children play video games in groups, they often take turns leading and following, depending on who has specific skills needed in that game. And nobody cares how old you are if you can lead the team to victory.

Video Games Bring Parents and Kids Together

Now that some video game systems are friendlier to novice players, it's increasingly possible to share game time together. Plus, playing a video game side-by-side encourages easy conversation, which in turn may encourage your child to share her problems and triumphs with you.

Social activity

In contrast to their parents, most young kids see video games as a social activity, not an isolating one. Video games create a common ground for young kids to make friends; allow kids to hang out; and provide structured time with friends. The reason why people find it so enjoyable is that games are usually the right degree of challenging and the player takes an active role (unlike watching television) so there is an incentive to achieve. Many games require cooperative play and logistics, comradeship and frequent interactions between team members.

Taking into consideration all the above statement, Computer games can also be a curse by:

Encouraging violence through social learning and desensitization

Children who play more violent video games are more likely to have increased aggressive thoughts, feelings, and behaviours, and decreased prosocial helping, especially, that in many games, kids are rewarded for being more violent.

Enhancing isolation

Another negative aspect of video games is the fact that kids are spending too much time playing the games rather than physically playing outside. By spending so much time on their game console or on the computer, children are missing out on their social life. Children are less likely to go out and compete in extracurricular activities which inhibit them from meeting new people and making friends. Also, your child may spend less time on other activities such as doing homework, reading, sports and interacting with the family and friends.

Affecting academic achievement

Studies have shown that the more time a kid spends playing video games, the poorer is his performance in school.

Affecting concentration

Although some studies suggest that playing video games enhances a child’s concentration, other studies, have found that games can hurt and help children’s attention issues — improving the ability to concentrate in short bursts but damaging long-term concentration at the same time.

Increasing health risks

Video games may also have bad effects on some children’s health, including obesity, video-induced seizures, and postural, muscular and skeletal disorders, such as tendonitis, nerve compression, carpal tunnel syndrome.

Increasing risk on child’s safety

When playing online, your kid can pick up bad language and behaviour from other people, and may make your kid vulnerable to online dangers.

Increasing risk for addiction

Video games can be addictive for kids. It is important to know that addiction to video games increases depression and anxiety levels.

Killing imagination and conversations

Kids don’t need to be quiet (thanks to video games) in a waiting area or during a drive or even in a restaurant while waiting for their meal, hey need time to daydream, deal with anxieties, process their thoughts and share them with parents, who can provide reassurance.

Conclusion and recommendations

Like so many other issues these days, the concept of video games is controversial. The line between a healthy amount of gaming and an excessive amount, revolves around moderation and allowing the right kind of game. Banning games entirely may be good for some households, but others (depending on the prominence of gaming within the environment) will find that it may socially isolate their children, take away a source of joy and possibly cognitive development. However, opening the door to the good, will also allow access to the bad including exposing the children’s minds to the realm of violence, taking their free time away from doing other things, and putting them at risk for obesity. In the end, it is important that the parent monitors what kinds of games children are playing and being exposed to.

  • Monitor video game play the same way you need to monitor television and other media.
  • Although playing video games can be a learning experience, give your kid a variety of other entertaining things to learn from. Be sure to make him read books, play sports, interact with other kids, and watch good TV.
  • Consider limiting the duration of playing to an hour a day. It’s a reasonable duration that prevents any damage on your child
  • Monitor the effect of video games on your child. Observe his behaviour. If you notice any bad effects then intervene and limit or review the kind of game your child is using.
  • Use the video game ratings to determine the violence and adult content of the game.

As parents, always remember that nutrition is constantly important in the cognitive, physical and behavioural development of your child.

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