Video games come under fire quite often by critics who say that playing games makes our kids lazy. They say that it makes it so that kids don't get enough exercise and it distracts them from real life and developing social skills. I have heard of a myriad of issues that video games can cause.
So do I let my kids play games a lot?
I remember back in the day when there were arcades at the mall and those arcades had a lot of pinball machines. Then one day I noticed a new machine… a video machine… Space Invaders! I was hooked! It wasn't very sophisticated but it was pretty cool and it took new skills to play. Then I remember the local Putt Putt getting an arcade which opened up a whole new world..Galaga, Q-Bert, Asteroids, Dig Dug, Pac Man, Donkey Kong, Tetris and my personal favorite Centipede.
I remember a lot of adults saying that I was wasting my time and money on games like that. At the time, I didn't care, there were other things I could have been doing like getting into trouble. I lived in a small town and there wasn't a lot going on so playing video games was a way for me to pass the time.
When the Internet came along and everyone started using computers, I was a natural. I hadn't taken any computer classes but well… navigating the Internet.. that was just like playing a video game. Video games had taught me that everything on the site has a purpose… all I had to do was click on stuff to see how it worked. I was ahead of the game. All that time playing games paid off in my professional life and my personal life.
So what about kids? They are already naturals with the computer right? Sometimes. I worked at my sons school in the computer lab and some kids get it right away and some kids… well, they take a little more time.
Now what about video games? Why let the kids play them? What could possibly be good about them? When I worked at my sons school, the district decided to block a lot of gaming sites because a lot of the games were not "educational". That was the most ridiculous thing I had ever heard. ALL games are educational!! While some of them are a little violent and some are not for kids at all… some things are just a bit too adult for kids… most of them are not and are perfectly fine. As with anything our kids do, it's important for parents to check it out first.
WHAT is it that makes it OK for my kids to play games? What I learned and what my husband and kids learn is how to formulate strategies. In games, there is always a way to win, you have to come up with a reasonable strategy to win. The more you play, the better you get, your skills improve, your speed improves, you become better at predicting what will happen next. It's all trial and error and then you start to notice patterns.
Isn't that pretty much how life goes? It's about forming a strategy and trying something… making an educated guess and exploring things to see how they work. If you don't figure it out you repeat it until you get there.
A couple of years ago, we got our kids a Wii system for Christmas. The first game we got was Guitar Hero. My son was working on a song so he could advance to the next level. One day he breezed through the song and asked why it was so easy this time. My husband told him "oh, I put in on No Fail for you."… my son was annoyed. "I don't want it on No Fail… I want it beat it myself!!". That says a lot about his determination.
My kids are willing to stick with a level until they figure it out to advance to a new level. When they get stuck, they ask each other for ideas on how to advance or they find that someone has already beat the level and they ask for the secrets.
Although I shove my kids out the door for exercise sometimes, I really don't have an issue with them playing games because they are learning skills and are learning about determination. As far as social skills go… watch your kids as they play together or with their friends. They have to form a team in order to win the game… they have to learn to get along if they want to advance.. they have to figure out how to work together.
When I make sure that the games are age appropriate then everything else with the game is great!
How do you feel about games? Do you allow your kids to play?