Some views on the complicated issues of 'real life'
Published on August 19, 2004 By oneofus In Gaming
This is a rant about (video and computer) games and their effect on children. Nothing quite new, but somehow I don't feel anybody has given a definitive or objective statement about the subject. Neither can I but I can put forward some questions and think about them...

Let's see:
(talking about young children - ages 3-8)
- games are a tool for learning about the world around them, specifically teaching them the action-consequence and good-evil relationship. Games also help expand the vocabulary. They force the children to be active participant instead of passive user (as does TV) and allow them to try things they couldn't do in real life (drive a car or a plane for instance). As learning through play is the best way, I think that at the moment there are no better teaching tools for Young children than games.

- at the same time, gaming restricts imagination as most of the things are 'given' on the screen, as opposed to the fantasies we had in our minds when reading books. It promotes 'the easy way out', teaching kids to use cheats when they cannot do something themselves and constrains the communication skills. (Yes, you can communicate with other players but when talking about the development of social skills, it cannot be compared with face-to-face communication). Additionally, some of the games do help with perfecting the feeling for timing and hand-eye co-ordination, but most are (still) done sitting down and cannot be termed 'exercise'.

As an avid gamer, I'm obviously 'pro' gaming oriented, but somehow feel that the games are more addictive than other forms of entertainment - so when the child starts gaming, it will try to devote more and more of it's time to it. And then it becomes dangerous. Books are the first to be left behind, and that shouldn't be allowed to happen. What is a parent to do? And (s)he cannot be around all day.

Well, I guess I've gone on for long enough without reaching a conclusion. And this is just the start. I'll have to think about it some more, but first I've got to finish this damn level...

on Aug 19, 2004
The first ten years are the most important years in a person's life, as far as mental development and socialisation goes. With mental development, the more a child uses their imagination, (and I generalise here) the more intelligent they become, because they are strengthening the synapses required for abstract thought. Where the action in the child's 'world' is not driven by imagination, but if given them, they are still a passive user because their control over the environment is limited. Sure, they can go left or right - but they can ONLY go left or right, and the consequences never change.

Additionally, computer games tend to be individual pursuits - well, they become that way if you get addicted to them! Therefore, the more time the child spends on the computer, the less time they are spending with other people learning to socialise and learning the interaction rules of the real world. Where you get in big trouble if you whop someone over the head

In my humble (psychologists) opinion, severely restricting game access until the age of eight is the kindest thing you can do for your child. We survived without gameboys, didn't we? Computer games are fun, but parents that let their children play them all day are doing their children no favours in the long run.

Maybe give them a cardboard roll and a piece of string and let them make their own fun for a change. Send them into the backyard with some cardboard fairy wings.

If you like I can rustle up some papers about child development?
on Aug 19, 2004
Thank You, this is pretty informative.
I was also thinking somewhere on these lines but as a gamer (a hobby and a profession for me), I cannot completely avoid games as a useful tool in teaching children about the world (add to that that my house if full of games so it's quite hard to completely dismiss them and also the fact that the child will learn about games from other childern (s)he meets and will want to try them).
Maybe the selection of games the child plays is the key. And, once (s)he starts playing, limiting the time that can be spent on gaming.
on Aug 19, 2004
Yes, I can completely understand - there's no way to hide them. And there are some excellent games for children out there. You're right - careful selection of the games and limited play time should do the trick.

But encourage them to do other things - because you're a gamer they will see you play a lot, and that's because it's your job but do try to take them out to do things outside, encourage them to do other things. You're the biggest role model in their little world, and they'll do whatever you do. Scary, but true.

I have nothing against computer games, by the way - I've used them in my research this year, in fact. I don't want you to think I'm game-hostile!

I wish you all the best with your gaming and I feel sure that, since this is a subject that you've thought about, you and your children will be okay. It scares me when parents don't even think about the impact of activities on their child...
on Aug 20, 2004
You're right - I guess most parents don't.
Thinking about games some more, I reached a conclusion they are just a form of interactive fiction - better than passive fiction (regular TV), but fiction nontheless. From there it's natural for the parent to be involved in the selection of fiction their child is exposed to and to decide how much fiction the child shoud be exposed to. There is a real world somehwhere I know, and somehow I feel that the child should be exposed to it also.