Like similar forms of media, computer and video games have been subjects of frequent controversy and censorship, especially due to the vivid depiction of violence, sexual themes, consumption of drugs, alcohol or tobacco, and profanity embedded in some games. Various games have been accused of causing addiction and even violent behaviour in children, though how much ground this holds is debatable.
It is very important to stress here that not every video game or gaming habit is bad for children. Popular author, Steven Johnson in his book Everything Bad Is Good for You, argues that video games in fact, demand far more from a player than traditional games like Monopoly or Ludo. To experience the game,
the players must first determine the objectives, as well as how to complete them. They must then learn the game controls and how the human-machine interface works, including menus and HUDs. The skills developed from learning all these can be useful at the workplace.
Beyond such skills, which after some time become quite fundamental and are taken for granted by many gamers, video games are based upon the player navigating (and eventually mastering) a highly complex system with many variables. This requires strong analytical ability, as well as flexibility and adaptability. Johnson argues that the process of learning the boundaries, goals, and controls of a given game is often a highly demanding one that calls on many different areas of cognitive function. Indeed, most games require a great deal of patience and focus from the player, and contrary to the popular perception that games provide instant gratification, games actually delay gratification far longer than other forms of entertainment such as movies or even many books.
Research has also shown that action video game players trump non-players in better hand-eye coordination and other visuo-motor skills, such as resistance to distraction, sensitivity to information in the peripheral vision and the ability to count briefly presented objects. Such enhanced abilities could be acquired by training with action games, involving challenges that switch attention between different locations, but not with games requiring concentration on single objects.
That said, it is important to remember that consuming anything in excess is not good; so the amount of time children devote to gaming must be controlled. Time management for children might not seem like a big deal as most people will say “aren’t they just children? Leave them alone, let them play.” But the truth of the matter is, if effective time management isn’t instilled in them at an early stage, they would grow up struggling with discipline and time management. Formative years are the best times to instil in children those good virtues we want them to grow into.
So making a detailed schedule of gaming time, movie time, and TV time amongst other activities won’t be a bad idea to inculcate into your child’s schedule. In as much as video gaming serves as a form of leisure for children, it shouldn’t be over- indulged in, else it becomes an addiction.
Parents, especially today’s fathers should keep a schedule for how long they engage in gaming, and also take note of the types of games they play, with a good knowledge of the various themes of each game.
When properly managed, it’s a win-win situation when children are allowed to indulge in gaming with adequate supervision.