According to Harris Interactive a survey of US children and teenagers revealed that average time spent per week playing video games for tween (those ages 8 to 12) and teen boys were 16 hours and 18 hours per week, respectively. And in the Singapore newspaper Straits Times quoted a study by the country’s National Institute of Education which showed children spend 27 hours a week playing video games.
Whether a passing fad or clinical disorder, gaming can be a cause for concern for parents. At worst they result in gaming addiction that can be debilitative and destructive. At best, they compete for valuable family time and result in lost motivation for school work.
Performance Appraisal Feedback
Computer games offer constant and instant feedback through points, stages, special powers and number of lives. Players know exactly how well they are doing or how far they have come, giving them a sense of growth and improvement. When the game comes to an end, there is no personal condemnation and no labeling. Instead of being rejected as a failure, the player is simply invited to play again.
A CBS report suggests that gaming elevates dopamine and takes them to a fantasy world that makes the player feel better. This is especially pertinent in a online role playing game where players assume a fictional character and interacts with others in a virtual world safe from judgments and criticisms.
Sense of Belonging
In a multi-player game, a strong sense of connection and community is built. Singapore’s The New Paper carried a report on the strong bonds forged by players of World of Warcraft and Romance of the Three Kingdoms and how they turn to their virtual friends for help and advice when faced with problems in the real world.
The common interest lays a stable foundation on which a strong relationship is formed. Furthermore the blurry line between the virtual and real worlds allows the online feeling of “we are in this together through thick and thin” to be transferred to their real lives and an understanding that that bond will continue to exist.
Sense of Responsibility
Games like Neopets and Farmland give players the sense that they are contributing to something, that they make a difference. Whether they are taking care of pets or plants or saving the world from intruders, children feel that they have the power to control and the autonomy to contribute positively. Flushed with little successes, they are then motivated to take on more and bigger challenges and enhance their feeling of significance.
Instead of fighting the video games phenomenon, parents can take a leaf out of the gaming book and consider some of the following questions.
- How often do you affirm your child?
- Does your child feel small or empowered from your feedback?
- When your child makes a mistake, do you take it personally?
- Does your child learn from his failures or is he ashamed of them?
- What can you do to build your child up in a non-judging way?
- How much time a week do you spend pursuing a common interest as family?
- How often does your child come to you for advice and help?
- Does your child know he is making a difference to your life?
- In what ways can your child hold responsibility in your family?
- In what areas of his life can he be granted autonomy?
Kids love games and they love their family too. So pull up a chair and join them in a game or two. By spending quality time together, parents get to learn something about computers and parenting and even about their little loved ones too.