By Ashley L.
According to an article published in the Journal of Adolescent Research, “video games are the fastest growing type of entertainment in the world” with 97% of adolescents playing video games and young people ages 8-18 spending on average 13.2 hours a week playing them” (Adachi & Willoughby, 2012, p. 155). To many of us, these are not shocking statistics, but it begs us to question, what effects are these games having on our children?
By now, the majority of us realize how violent and real some of the video games available are, especially with the papers and news shows covering such tragedies as Columbine and Virginia Tech and putting the blame on violent VIDEO GAMERS not just violent adolescents. We know that video games can have harmful effects on our children, but can video games have a positive spin on our children’s development? Can they actually help our children learn much needed skills?
Through my readings, I have come to learn that yes, the RIGHT video games used in MODERATION, can help children and adolescents develop social, cognitive and psychological skills.
Jordon Shapiro also highlights the Adachi and Willoughby (2012) study and notes that video game play satisfies the same elements for eliciting “initiative” – a quality associated with “positive youth development” – as traditional organized activities such as sports teams, arts, clubs and hobbies. Adachi and Willoughby discuss that another research, Larson (2000), identified three elements of positive youth development: “(1) intrinsic motivation (2) concentration and cognitive effort and, (3) cumulative effort over time to achieve a goal” (p. 156) and suggest playing video games can offer the same opportunities for experiencing these elements.
Marilyn Price-Mitchell, a psychologist, explains in one of her articles that studies have shown that when comparing adolescent boys that are gamers and non-gamers, the gamers actually, “reported more family closeness, higher involvement in activities, greater attachment to school, and positive mental health”. Quite the opposite to what the media displays and tells us. She further explains that other studies have shown that if the video games prompted such behaviors as sharing, helping others, cooperation, and empathy, that the children who played these games actually displayed these behaviors more than others that didn’t. And these outcomes can be linked to some of the Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets (e.g., caring for other, bonding to school).
Children are intrigued by video games as they enjoy the content and the social aspect of playing with other children either virtually and/or right beside them. Video games pose challenges and have rules that the player must follow in order to succeed. The child must learn to apply these rules and use problem solving techniques in order to advance to the next level or earn points, etc. Not only do these games require a certain set of skills in order to advance, but it also takes time in order to continue onto the next level developing a child’s commitment. Although these games aren’t reality as such, the skills they are learning by playing them can also be applied in life.
It all comes down to picking the RIGHT video game for your child. You know your child best, if your child has anger issues or has violent tendencies, don’t go out and buy them the more violent games. With the internet and the thousands of websites dedicated to reviews out there, if you’re unsure about which game to purchase, look at the reviews first, then judge accordingly. Just because it’s the “in” game, doesn’t mean it’s right one for your child. Unfortunately, controlling what happens in your own household is easier than what happens outside. Make sure you articulate to your child’s friends’ parents your wishes, so that your child isn’t over at Johnny’s house playing the games you avoid having in your home.
For additional reading:
Adachi, P. J. C., & Willoughby, T. (2013). Do video games promote positive youth development? Journal of Adolescent Research, 28(2), p. 155-165. doi: 10.1177/0743558412464522
Larson, R. W. (2000). Toward a psychology of positive youth development. American
Psychologist, 55, 170-183.
Price-Mitchell, Marilyn. (2012). Effects of Video Games: More Good than Bad for Youth Development? http://www.rootsofaction.com/video-games-for-kids-more-good-than-bad-for-development/
Shapiro, Jordan. (2013). New Research Emphasizes Gaming’s Positive Impact on Psychological Development. http://www.forbes.com/sites/jordanshapiro/2013/01/29/new-research-emphasizes-gamings-positive-impact-on-psychological-development/