This is a guest post by Edward Gould
There has been much made of violent video games aimed at the adult market which have found their way into the hands of teenagers, but what about games aimed at younger children? Well, it obviously depends on the other media that the children in question are exposed to, but the latest studies tend to point out the positive effects of screen-based gaming rather than negative ones. A 2014 study conducted by the University of Oxford among some 5,000 ten to fifteen year olds found that those who played video games faced fewer problems with emotional issues and possessed lower levels of things like hyperactivity. According to the study’s author, “being engaged in video games gave children a common language” which helped them to socialise. Of those questioned, three quarters played video games on a daily basis and they were found to be more likely to help people in difficulty, get on better with peers and enjoy greater satisfaction with their lives.
According to no less an authority then the British Council, which promotes the UK in overseas territories, video games can be of great educational benefit, too. Video games consoles played by preschoolers which require physical movement, such as Nintendo’s Wii system, can help to improve coordination and motor skills. Likewise, fast-moving games can lead to improved decision making processing and speed up children’s ability to think on their feet. Another study cited by the British Council focussed on the classic video game Tetris which was found to relieve stress in youngsters after they had been exposed to something upsetting.
Of course, most parents would rightly want to monitor what sort of internet activity their children are up to and this is no less the case when it comes to online gaming. Playing the role of a Marvel superhero is something that most kids like to when dressing up, but they can also get a similar experience online at Marvel Kids. Websites which are set up for children, like Marvel’s or Mattel’s allow parents that bit of reassurance they need to leave their kids unsupervised while they play.
However, younger children, in particular, ought to be monitored if they are on a general gaming website where some of the content for kids is mixed up with inappropriate material for younger minds. Child-friendly games at such sites can often be found in the puzzle section and these can be great fun for parents and children to enjoy together, so monitoring should not be thought of as a burden, rather an opportunity to have some fun interacting with the screen activity together. Word-based puzzles are good for improving spelling and reading. Indeed, many types of online puzzles can promote logical processing in children as well as other cognitive abilities.