Surprised to find a positive side to video games? Here's how they can teach problem solving and goal setting
With most toys we buy our kids, we worry that they might not play with them enough. With video games, we worry that they’ll play too much! My six-year-old grandson, Sebastian, can be completely mesmerized by the on-screen action, oblivious to the rest of the world. That can’t be a good thing, can it?
And what about the bloodthirsty and violent aspects? Or the lack of physical exercise when kids spend hours moving only their thumbs on the controller?
Is there a positive side to these games?
The short answer: yes. “We have this image of video games as mainly “shoot-em-up” or “role-playing” games with lots of violence, but in reality there are many different kinds of games,” says Kathy Sanford, a professor of education at the University of Victoria. “Some games are not at all suitable for younger children, but many are very interactive and enjoyable, and they can learn a lot by playing them.”
The game designers seem to have taken the concerns about kids being inactive to heart, and have come out with new games, such as Dance Dance Revolution and Wii Fit, that promote activity. “In our studies, we’ve observed that kids tend to play for a long time and really work up a sweat,” says Sanford. “We also found that the various sports games let parents and kids play together, each at a different level, which makes it more of a fun family activity as well as exercise.”
Marc Prensky, author of Don’t Bother Me Mom — I’m Learning!, feels even more strongly. “Kids are really learning a lot when they play these games, and they’re learning things that are not taught in school. They learn to solve problems, take risks and evaluate the outcomes, and to work with others to accomplish a goal, and they learn these things in a way that’s interesting and painless.”