Are video games actually good for you? Based on the number of members that Lumosity has accrued (over 50 million!), the answer seems to be yes. On the other hand, research indicates that we had better not get our hopes up. It’s been reported that players get better at specific games without other lasting brain benefits. (But it feels so good to beat my lower scores!)
What about the much-discussed problem of kids and video games? There are studies linking violent video games and TV shows with increases in violent behavior. There are also concerns that such games can be addictive and reduce an individual’s social interactions.
But wait! Just recently I came across two articles suggesting that some video games for kids have a positive payoff.
Understood, a marvelous website on learning challenges, identified five video games which can boost reasoning and problem-solving skills. No surprise that these five do not include a single zombie. SimCIty and Minecraft are two examples of games which require complex reasoning, ability to sustain a trial and error approach, and even cooperation with other players.
A recent article in Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences argues that action video games improve visual perception, the ability to make quick responses, and improved ability to ignore distractions, among other benefits. You might find zombies in this genre.
My opinion is that parents need to decide what’s best for their kids based upon their child’s interests, personalities, and learning differences. Some kids do become fixated on video games, often the ones who already have weak social skills or a narrow range of interests. It can seem a lot easier to let them play for hours instead of arguing about time limits, but these kiddoes need some help with boundaries. You can also turn this “obsession” into social credit by setting up playdates with other kids who enjoy the same games. I’ve seen that work successfully, as long as an adult helps them share playing time and provides support for positive comments. Without that support, you could end up with two very miserable kids.
Millions of kids now watch “animated” adults play Minecraft online. Why not let your teenager share his or her success at gaming (of course, with no identifying features)? This process could involve problem-solving, awareness of audience, and improved self-confidence. A new gaming site, PixelPuf, allows users to upload media and even written content. I’ve known some kids with amazing cartooning skills who could find an enthusiastic audience out there. Check it out!