In defense of video games

After doing some research, Reva discovers that video games can be a positive influence for our kids. Seriously!

Photo: toskov/iStockphoto

Over the weekend, I walked past one of those scenes that, although completely common in homes across Canada, every once and awhile still makes you stop and think: “Wow, things really have changed since I was a kid.”

My four-year-old son was casually showing my dad how to fix something on my mom’s iPad.

It’s actually not an exaggeration to say that my eight-month-old also seemed to be listening. I saw that his little hand was firmly gripping my husband’s smartphone.

Kids today are practically born digital and, since more than half of all children now have access to mobile and smart devices, we shouldn’t be surprised that more children know how to play video games than can swim, ride a bike or tie a shoe.

It depresses me to realize that my boys fall into that group — they can ride a bike but we’re still working on the other two.

But should it even bother me? Am I obsolete for even worrying about this when so many of the preconceptions I’ve had have been turned on their head when it comes to technology? Case in point: video games.

I’ve always associated video games as an activity that needs to be tightly controlled and monitored. But apparently, my worries are outdated. The majority of research that we hear about on the detriments of screen time for kids is based on TV watching — which is completely passive.

So a kid zoned-out in front of the TV is just that. But a kid absorbed in a video game is actually actively engaged. And all those times you were talking to them (very loudly, in my case) and they just ignored you? That is apparently known as being in a “state of flow” — which is actually the highest form of learning since the person is engaged in the mastery of a skill to such an extent that they don’t notice anything else around them.

Who knew, right?

I was thinking about this as I was making notes on online learning for next year, since I wasn’t sure how technology or video games were going to fit into my plans.

At Seth’s school this year, online games are regularly part of their homework — something my parents still can’t over: “His homework is to play video games? Is he learning anything?”

Our school’s been using SumDog for math and Starfall for reading — and I was looking into other options, since Seth seems a bit tired of both now, when I stumbled across this video and became completely inspired.

Forget playing games, I want the boys to learn how to create games!

At the moment, 90 percent of schools don’t teach any form of computer programming or coding, something that advocacy organizations like code.org are looking to change. And I’ve decided to learn it with them. Learning to code seems like learning to read — where there’s a magic moment that happens when everything just clicks.  Which to me seems incredible.

Learn to code start-ups are increasingly common, but to get us going, I’m going to be using Tynker, a visual programming language specifically designed for elementary school kids. I’m excited to learn to do this, but I’m even more excited to share the journey with my boys and to show them that learning right from the very bottom (I’m not known for any tech savviness) is something that you do by choice for your entire life.

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