by Brian E.
As a kid, I spent a lot of my time involved in almost every sport I could sign up for. All year round I was involved in practices, traveling to tournaments, and being introduced to new coaches and social environments. By being always on the go, I was drawn to the appeal of video games as a hobby which made up for much of my down time between sports. It was just an extra thing that allowed myself to express my competitive nature, but also served as a time to relax and unwind. However, I ask this question: can video games actually be beneficial for children/adolescences? Well, after dedicating many hours of personal experience to the cause, I hope to shine some positive light on video games.
Thanks to the wonderful development of technology, we have options known as active video games (AVGs). Examples of these games are Wii Fit, DDR, Kinect sports, all which require some sort of physical activity to play. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that regular physical activity reduces the chance for childhood obesity. Adolescences spend much their time with sedentary activities during the day, most of which consists of screen time. With the use of AVGs, youth have been able to maintain excitement and enjoyment for games, while benefiting from the physical activity aspect. Heart rate and VO2 max are some reported factors that were higher dealing with AVGs versus other sedentary behaviors (Gao 2015). In addition, heart rate was reported slightly higher than results from physical activities done in a laboratory setting. It is important to note adolescences also reported more liking and enjoyment with AVGs over sitting video games and watching television.
Self-esteem, out of the 39 other assets covered in course material, relates the best to AVGs. When I was in high school, we had dance in gym class that everyone had to participate in. As you may guess, not everyone was good and most had no interest in participating. Think of the AVG “Just Dance” in comparison, which is a game that requires the individual to perform dance moves shown on the screen. With a score based on timing and right movements, the pressure is on. I mention the score as it reflects your grade received in the game; and lucky you, there is no limit to how many times you can try that dance to achieve your best. What better way to boost self esteem than having yourself as the opponent. This specific activity has no consequences or judgements for failing other than the game’s score and the perceived individual’s feeling. Oddly enough, Gao (2015) found that by playing AVGs, adolescences report a higher expenditure of energy opposed to other physical activities.
Although AVGs prove to be effective in improving sedentary behaviors in youth, they should be used in moderation and not in place of traditional physical activity. Looking at the 5 C’s of positive youth development (confidence, competence, connection, character, caring and compassion) and comparing these to AVGs, confidence is the only true benefit. Confidence relates to self esteem, as it is gained from being successful within the activity. To fix this problem with AVGs, I suggest that schools, community centers or summer camps adopt some sort of AVG activity like the ones mentioned. This could allow opportunity to grow in areas of connection and character as the AVG activities would not be confined to a home setting.
It is important to the development of AVGs that teachers, parents, counselors, and adults in general are educated further on the subject. Thus, traditional physical activities and AVGs can be interrelated, which have both been proven beneficial to youth. I feel that there needs to be more research done that looks at age specific populations, the type of AVGs they are engaging in, and what effects those games have over a longer period of time versus the effects of sport. As I said, AVGs should not be the main means of physical activity, but research suggests it is a positive tool in the development of adolescences. With more research, education and integration, active video games serve a purpose that can help turn down time into healthy experiences.
Gao, Z., Chen, S., Pasco, D. and Pope, Z. (2015), A meta-analysis of active video games on health outcomes among children and adolescents. Obes Rev, 16: 783–794.