Why you should let your kids play video games
School's almost starting and parents might be looking for strategies for their child to get the most out of their schooling.
One thing I'd suggest is to perhaps let them play video games a little. Why, you ask?
Well, there's been important recent research on the links between screen time and NAPLAN results by Drs Islam, Biswas, and Khanam, at UNSW and USQ.
Their somewhat surprising findings were that a small amount of video gaming on weekdays and weekends for children aged 11- 17 was associated with better reading and numeracy scores than no gaming at all. Obviously, not endless amounts of time. More than four hours gaming a day was associated with poorer results.
But one to two hours a day on school days, and two to four hours Saturday and Sunday, seemed to be the sweet spot. These results didn't astonish me. I know that many parents won't let their child use computers for fun at all through the week, and sometimes weekends too. And I certainly understand the good intentions of these rules.
But clinically, I see some benefit in children having access to internet games. Why? Four reasons.
Imagine you were heading to work tomorrow but had already been told that when your official workday is over, you have to come home, do more work, eat, shower and then go to bed. Feeling despondent? I don't blame you.
It's understandable that children want to have a bit of down time to look forward to. To have to finish their homework to be able to play games will give them a little bit of an incentive to do it all. Internet games also give them downtime from often busy days.
Content of games
Computer games have a bad reputation but not all are bad.
Many teach or improve co-ordination, memory, speed, visuo-spatial and multi-tasking skills. Games also typically involve reading and understanding complex rules.
Of course, you have to monitor content. The government and some gaming providers have done the hard work of analysing and rating games, so parents can dictate what age children need to be to get particular rated games.
Being consistent on your rules makes this easier.
I know you'd prefer them to have the childhood you had, exploring the neighbourhood with the local kids in the afternoon. But things just aren't like that anymore. Online gaming is how a lot of children communicate with their friends now. It's never as good as in person, but it is a good way to stay in contact with peers occasionally.
Playing something for a time-limited period teaches children essential self-regulation skills - by stopping a current pleasure for future gain - which will help them in their studies.
Enabling them to learn this self-control will be better than not allowing them the opportunity. Some parents might be worried that once they let their child on, they will never get off.
I have to say, for these parents, the problem is not necessarily the game but more their child's compliance skills.
You should be able to give an instruction and your child follow it. In these instances, I'd prefer parents to establish good control through using effective discipline rather than take away things that may cause trouble.
Get professional help if this is an issue. As one of the study's authors noted, asking if the internet is good or bad is the wrong question, but instead we should consider "when, how, and how much young people are using technology". Maybe 2021 is the year to do this.
Originally published as Why you should let your kids play video games