The daunting question every parent finds themselves asking: are video games bad for my child? This question is not new, but parents continue to struggle with its answer. In 2020, technology has only become more prevalent with the switch to online learning and the upcoming release of high-tech gaming systems like the new PlayStation 5 enticing bored kids and frustrated parents alike. Now, the pandemic is limiting this year’s summer activities and we once again find ourselves asking, is it okay for kids to turn to video games instead of spending time playing with friends?
The answer is simple: yes. In fact, parents with children fascinated by technology as well as parents who are just looking for an engaging way to entertain their children while still giving them a leg up have already begun turning toward gaming as an opportunity for keen developmental, social and even academic growth. Here’s why:
One of the often-overlooked ways in which gaming stimulates children is its demand for high-level thinking and quick decision making. Through the repeated use of the intense thought processing required in any engaged gamer, children’s abstract thought processing capabilities are challenged, pushing them further towards crucial developmental milestones. Hand-in-hand with this, there is an increase in logical reasoning while they attempt to manipulate their way through different situations considering a variety of possible paths and observing the results of other players’ choices. Furthermore, as children continue to game, there is an expansion in their overall learning capacities as we see them master new skills in these virtual worlds and continue to meet challenges with an enthusiasm towards learning in everyday life. Even better? Games played “alongside” peers encourages collective learning which results in social skill development as well.
Because so many of us associate video games with isolation, it comes as a surprise to most adults that gaming actually bolsters social skill growth in children. Through playing video games, children become virtually connected with peers and are constantly seen collaborating, bouncing ideas off of each other and learning from each other’s mistakes: all skills children will need in future personal and professional settings. Especially important in this 6-feet-apart era where kids are starved for interaction with others their own age, gaming also harnesses a sense of community and belonging which have been proven critical in healthy childhood emotional development. The social element of being able to build these connections online when they can’t in person satisfies the need to interact, joke around and continue developing their identities.
Gaming goes hand-in-hand with coding, a popular hobby and activity for children today. Gaming makes computer science intriguing to children, and acts as a stimulating way to translate their interests into real-world skills. There are several coding programs that teach children how to code a game, which effectively capitalizes on their interest in gaming to get them excited about coding. Coding has shown to give children a leg up while taking exams and in their future careers, and developing soft skills like critical thinking and problem solving.
Many parents are struggling to continue challenging their children both academically and socially during this time of isolation and ensuring developmental milestones continue to be met. Although increased screen time can make parents a little hesitant, technology and gaming can be a safe yet thrilling way to stimulate children and ensure they continue to grow. In the era of “together but apart,” gaming provides an unexpected solution to continued child development.
Soundarya Ganesh, is the owner of iCode in Wellesley. iCode is a national computer science education franchise offering after school and summer programs, equips children with the skills and knowledge to compete in today’s technological environment. Committed to quality and providing in-depth learning experiences, the brand’s proprietary curricula and several unique technology education programs set it apart in the fast-growing coding education space.