Monthly Parenting Magazine

Is online gaming really bad for children?

Is online gaming really bad for children?

We all worry about how online gaming can affect our little ones, but virtual play can also develop useful skills

Words Gill Hayward and Kellie Forbes

Even before smartphones made virtual gaming available to all, people worried about the effect of these games on young minds. The fear of children emulating violence from games is often a parent’s biggest worry, but could even gentle games be scrambling our kids’ brains?

We still believe that kids need to be kids – they need to run around outside and play with other, real-life people.

There is no substitute for real-life interaction, learning to play, communicate, compromise and adjust yourself to different social situations when you’re little. There needs to be lots of jumping around in muddy puddles.

But is our reliance on the iPads and smartphones as a cure for boredom doing our children damage? The answer is not necessarily.

Contrary to what you might expect, there are actually a great number of advantages to virtual play.

Cognitive Development

Almost all video games are built on the same basic foundations – you complete a set of tasks and you receive the reward. Rewards actually trigger a dopamine response in the brain, causing you to feel pleasure. This is fundamentally how most animals learn. While this could be damaging if applied to a violent game, it can also be very positive when applied to games that foster cognitive development.

Many games require players to solve challenges, spot patterns, manage resources, map areas, remember facts, and empathise with characters. They force players to create strategies, use maths, and adapt to new situations, all of which are useful life skills.

Spatial Reasoning

Even though they are essentially two-dimensional, smartphone and tablet games still help develop spatial reasoning – the understanding of how objects relate to one another in space, and we believe that, looking ahead, spatial reasoning and hand-eye coordination on flat screens will almost certainly turn out to be a key skill for future workplaces.

Socialisation Skills

Many games now include a social element, such as massive multiplayer online (MMO) games in which players need to work together to complete challenges. Not only does this help develop social skills, it teaches the benefit of sharing, planning as a team, valuing individual strengths and skills, and coordination of time. Of course it’s worth keeping an eye on their interactions – as we all know, people are not always who they say they are online.

Ultimately, our biggest challenge as parents is balancing our children’s tech play with natural play. Our kids need virtual games to grow up well-adapted to the age they live in – and that means tech play is important, but we’d never say natural play would come second. A healthy balance is the ideal way forward for our children to grow up to be rounded little people equipped for everything life’s about to throw at them.

Founded in 2010 by Gill Hayward and Kellie Forbes YUU offers kid’s activity backpacks providing a durable and portable solution for children on the go.

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