Nowadays, it’s easy to spot an iPod, iPad, or PSP in the hands of a child. At home, a Wii, Playstation or Xbox can be seen blinking near the TV. While video games are more and more pervasive in society, there are still mixed theories about the impact that video games have on children. Some experts argue that video games shorten attention span, while others say that video games are an excellent tool for promoting learning as well as developing hand-eye coordination. Here are the arguments on both sides:
- Video games improve hand-eye coordination
- Video games help children learn through their interactive nature and repeated practice
- Video games that are designed to teach good attitudes, skills and behaviours have been successful
- Students who play violent video games have increased physical aggression
- Students who spend more time playing video games have a higher risk of obesity
- Students who spend more time playing video games face a higher risk of lower academic achievement
While it is not necessary to cut off video games completely, limiting the amount of time that your child spends on a video game console and monitoring the content of the games can reduce their negative effects. The American Association of Pediatrics recommends no more than one to two hours per day, which amounts to a maximum of 14 hours per week, as opposed to the 37 hours on average that children spend in front of a screen. The other factor in this equation is the type of game your child is playing – educational games are less likely to have negative effects on children, while violent games are more likely to have negative effects. Also, active video games that get children moving have been shown to counteract some effects that could lead to obesity.
While video games can be beneficial, it’s important to keep track of your child’s playing habits in order to ensure that the negative effects are kept to a minimum. Happy playing!
Ruth Rumack has been a full-time teacher and educator since 1996. Visit her Google+ page to find out more about early childhood education.