Virtual, Reality?

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?

Shapiro, Jordan. (2013). New Research Emphasizes Gaming’s Positive Impact on Psychological Development.

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6 Responses to Virtual, Reality?

  1. l8q90 says:

    I like that someone actually took a positive spin on video games. Even though I would much rather see my child outside learning in “real life”, this makes it seem like video games can also have a positive role on them even if it isn’t the ideal way to learn like I feel I had when I was growing up. I guess with society today we have to adjust to what the kids want to do, and accept that they are going to want to sit around and play video games and we are just going to have to meet them halfway.

    The problem that I see around my old neighborhood and from friends of the family is that most parents are leaving out the most crucial part to learning through video games: moderation. I think that kids can learn from playing video games to an extent, but if they are lacking the social aspects of being outside and learning with friends then they will be greatly held back in their development.

    Overall i really enjoyed the read and it gave me some hope that generation Z won’t be as screen dependent and socially awkward as I once thought.

  2. l8q90 says:

    Forgot my name on here was my email, oops.

    Devan Frigault

  3. Great comment Devan. And congratulations on being the first commenter.

    Devan highlights the concept of moderation which Ashley emphasized in her post. This relates to the idea of helping teach children and adolescents to self-regulate. If no one is guiding you that it is important to have variety in your leisure (e.g., some video game time; some outdoor time; some family time; some sport participation), I wonder when and where you learn this self-regulation. Even when moderation is the example, people sometimes struggle with moderation themselves when the choices are completely in their control.

    I agree that sometime video games get a bit of a bad reputation because we hear stories of the extremes or there is a focus on the negative effects. Ashley’s post helps us remember not to “throw the baby out with the bath water” so to speak.

    Looking forward to others’ thoughts.


  4. r3cwk says:

    I absolutely love video games. I had my first video game at age three, which was a simple math problem game on a floppy disk. Moderation as mentioned early is the biggest key to positive youth development.
    What I hate seeing is the media and the news reducing video games as a propaganda to become more violent. School shooting? The student liked to play Call of Duty… Outcast lonner who comited a crime? He played World of War Craft.
    These online games actually provide a niche community for some people. WOW (world of Warcraft) has a massive community that helps foster a sense of belonging, everyone is there for their own pleasure, and can work cooperatively. Call of Duty, although can be rather violent, is in a way a form of art. Like an action movie, it is an interactive form of visual representation. Just like you wouldn’t let your 12 year old watch Sin City, you shouldn’t let them play Call of Duty. It’s not the game that cuases the violence, it’s that the person feels they have to act that way to get the results they desire (weather it be mental problem, or a lack of the fundamentals of a good childhood).
    – Amélie R.

  5. JosiahM says:

    I don’t think I agree that video games can have an impact on positive youth development. However, the positive spin is appreciated. Screen time is not a good thing, today’s youth get far too much of it. Sedentary lifestyles, which many children today have are terrible for health. Violent video games are negative for people of any age, no matter the excuse, except for training for the army in a simulator, shooting people should never be involved in video games.
    If nothing else, video games are not as social as spending time with people. Video games waste time, a lot of it! It’s easy to get caught up playing a video game for 2 or 3 hours. Social capital is gained by spending time in the community or with friends. Youth should spend less time on video games that are of far less value to them than interacting with people, or learning by reading. Virtual interaction doesn’t have nearly as much value as life experiences away from the computer or console.

  6. t510z says:

    Violent video games have ratings! I have always enjoyed video games and though I do not agree with the amount of screen time the youth of today are getting, I also do not agree with blaming the video game for changing the child. Games are rated T for teen and M for mature. These ratings mean that T = 13 and above and M = 17 and above. Parents blaming the video games for making their children violent is allowing parents to pass the blame on from themselves to the games. Why allow a 10 or 11 year old child to play a game way past the recommended age. Most parents would not do this for movies but because video “games”, has the word “game” in it parents assume that it is for children and this attitude and naivety need to be changed. Grand Theft Auto is rated mature and is always blamed for Junior high violence. Why is no one looking at the parent for allowing their child to play a game that is so violent and vulgar. Why are we placing blame on the makers of the game and not focusing on the parents who have final say in buying the game and allowing there child to play it. We do not blame the alcohol companies for making alcohol when someone is caught underage drinking…

    Brandon Z

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