When I was growing up, I absolutely hated video games. Back then, all my little brother played was "Duck Hunt" and "Super Mario Brothers". It wouldn't be until years later that I found my own groove as a gamer, playing "Mortal Kombat" and "Destiny." Now, as a mom in my 30s, games are a fun way to keep my mind sharp and my body relaxed, and it's the same for my kids. The screen love bothers a lot of parents, but it turns out, you shouldn't worry about your kid's video game habit. The research on children and video games has almost completed itself — there's so much of it and it's probably not what you think.
We live in a digital world. It's ride or die with coding and memes and search engine optimization. If you can't keep up with the changing connected world, you're left behind. Gaming, specifically goal gaming or pointed gaming where the game has a purpose like literacy or coding skills, is an easy way to engage your kids in this digital arena, and prepare them for their lives in the classroom and beyond. One of the very first games my 9-year-old son ever played was an alphabet game designed by PBS kids. My son adored Sesame Street, and let me tell you, he loved their games even more. But as your kids get older, their love of video games may verge on obsession and make you worry. Every parent has been there. But as it turns out, there are nine reasons why you shouldn't worry about your kid's video game habit.
1. They Are Excellent At Teaching Skills
A study completed by Nottingham Trent University found that video games are an effective classroom and home educational tool that can address a specific skill or problem in ways that non-interactive education cannot. Subjects like geometry, spatial relations, and reading are often well-suited for game learning. So when your kid screams about his house not working on Minecraft, the more they try, the more they're really learning about basic spatial relations and physics. Also, there are zombies, which are always fun.
2. They Are Able To Transmit Theoretical Situations To Real-Life Situations
When they're playing "SimCity" or maneuvering through "Deus Ex Go," a study published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that your child will take those skills and apply them in real life situations. While your child may not go on to be a math professor or civil engineer, they're developing critical problem solving skills and abstract thinking that will help them throughout their lives. You only need to start worrying if they start speaking Simlish more than their native tongue. But, to be fair, my husband speaks Elvish, so what does that say about him?
3. Contrary To Popular Belief, Games Can Be Active
Ask any mother of a child above the age of 5, and she can tell you how many miles she's walked to find or upgrade the perfect Pokémon. My phone is not my phone when my kids and I are anywhere a Pokémon might be lurking, or where there's a really good gym, or anywhere Team Mystic doesn't dominate, because "Mama, we need to turn the country blue." True words, kid.
4. There's An Anti-Feminist Contingent In The Gaming Community
Remember #gamergate? The misogynistic backlash game producer and designer Zoe Quinn faced is nothing new in the gaming community. Since its inception, gaming has been male dominated and outspokenly misogynist. That sounds like a rash generalization, but as a member of the community since 2004, I can tell you, it's less rash generalization than harsh truth.
The simple fact is that gaming needs more girls and women and more people in general who are willing to actively work against the tide of mansplaining that happens on the boards every day. If we get kids interested in games as children, we can and will change that dynamic. There is no reason that a virtual, often times Utopia-esque world, should be a breeding ground of bigotry and misogyny.
5. It's Great For Self-Expression
I cannot imagine how hard it is to be a transgender child. That was never my battle, but for kids who are in this situation, the ability to choose their own character avatar, regardless of gender, is huge, according to The Journal of Communication Research. The virtual world gives them a safe arena to express their identity, even if they're not ready to discuss it with anyone, and that's pretty freaking cool.
It's also a place where kids can find a lot of unlikely heroes. Consider Ori and the Blind Forest — there's a real emotionality to the game, and the underdog isn't just a down on his luck dude. Kids are free to express themselves through the safe lens of a character they feel represents them, and whom they can root for.
6. It's Good For Their Mental Health
There's a component of relaxation and meditation with video gaming. Yes, your mind is actively working, but it's not thinking about the bully at school or the troubles you're having in gym. When you're gaming, you're in a different mental space, and according to Frontiers in Psychology, this click in the brain from work and stress to play is very beneficial for mental health and stress relief.
Gaming also gives them a sense of accomplishment and pride when they complete a level or finish the game. It teaches them that even if they have to try something over and over again, they can eventually hit their goal.
7. It's Great For Socializing
Oh, you thought that all gamers were just 40-year-old men in their mother's basements whose side hustle was trolling articles on Facebook and ordering pizza? Au contraire. There are social video games thanks to XBox Live and the Playstation and PC gaming world. And contrary to popular belief, many offer "invite only" or "choose your co-player" options so that you can make sure that the people playing "Halo" with your 9-year-old aren't dangerous. I know that my sister-in-law and my son play together frequently, and my son is in a Roblox group with a bunch of kids from his class. They learn the value of healthy competition and conflict resolution in a contained environment.
8. Obvious Family Bonding
It's so much fun to play together as a family, even when my son wipes the floor with my behind. It's quality time we can spend together on rainy or hot days in September. It's hilarious to hear my 6-year-old daughter talk smack about her moat building skills that have drowned my husband's pigs — which is a thing that happens. We get together, grab some snacks, and let our competitive sides come to fore for family bonding. Plus, we are not athletically inclined, so it was that or Monopoly, and you couldn't pay me to play that game. (My husband cheats.)
9. You Can Pee Alone
I'm sorry, but I don't give a single crap (see what I did there?) if my kid wants to play a game where they fry anthropomorphic hot dogs if it means I get to pee alone or maybe even — dare I say it? — shower. I will bask in the extra 45 seconds it gives me to shave one leg, and I will be grateful.
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