I bumped into a parenting online mag entitled “Raise Smart Kids“, they have an article where they touched on the good effects of video games for pre-tween kids. Below is a segment of the article, but you can read the whole piece here:
Video games give your child’s brain a real workout. In many video games, the skills required to win involve abstract and high level thinking. These skills are not even taught at school. Some of the mental skills trained by video games include:
- Following instructions
- Problem solving and logic
- Hand-eye coordination, fine motor and spatial skills. In shooting games, the character may be running and shooting at the same time. This requires the real-world player to keep track of the position of the character, where he/she is heading, their speed, where the gun is aiming, if the gunfire is hitting the enemy, and so on. All these factors need to be taken into account, and then the player must then coordinate the brain’s interpretation and reaction with the movement in their hands and fingertips. This process requires a great deal of eye-hand coordination and visual-spatial ability to be successful. Research also suggests that people can learn iconic, spatial, and visual attention skills from video games. There have been even studies with adults showing that experience with video games is related to better surgical skills. Also, a reason given by experts as to why fighter pilots of today are more skillful is that this generation’s pilots are being weaned on video games.
- Resource management and logistics. The player learn to manage resources that are limited, and decide the best use of resources, the same way as in real life. This skill is honed in strategy games such as SimCity, Age of Empires, and Railroad Tycoon
- Multitasking, simultaneous tracking of many shifting variables and managing multiple objectives. In strategy games, for instance, while developing a city, an unexpected surprise like an enemy might emerge. This forces the player to be flexible and quickly change tactics.
- Quick thinking, making fast analysis and decisions. Sometimes the player does this almost every second of the game giving the brain a real workout. According to researchers at the University of Rochester, led by Daphne Bavelier, a cognitive scientist, games simulating stressful events such as those found in battle or action games could be a training tool for real-world situations. The study suggests that playing action video games primes the brain to make quick decisions. Video games can be used to train soldiers and surgeons, according to the study.
- Strategy and anticipation – Steven Johnson, author of Everything Bad is Good For You: How Today’s Popular Culture is Actually Making Us Smarter, calls this “telescoping.” Gamers must deal with immediate problems while keeping their long-term goals on their horizon.
- Developing reading and math skills – Young gamers force themselves to read to get instructions, follow storylines of games, and get information from the game texts. Also, using math skills is important to win in many games that involves quantitative analysis like managing resources.
- Perseverance – In higher levels of a game, players usually fail the first time around, but they keep on trying until they succeed and move on to the next level.
- Pattern recognition – Games have internal logic in them, and players figure it out by recognizing patterns.
- Estimating skills
- Inductive reasoning and hypothesis testing – James Paul Gee, professor of education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says that playing a video game is similar to working through a science problem. Like students in a laboratory, gamers must come up with a hypothesis. For example, players in some games constantly try out combinations of weapons and powers to use to defeat an enemy. If one does not work, they change hypothesis and try the next one. Video games are goal-driven experiences, says Gee, which are fundamental to learning.
- Mapping – Gamers use in-game maps or build maps on their heads to navigate around virtual worlds.
- Improved ability to rapidly and accurately recognize visual information – A study from Beth Israel Medical Center NY, found a direct link between skill at video gaming and skill at keyhole, or laparoscopic, surgery.
- Reasoned judgments
- Teamwork and cooperation when played with others – many games are played online and involve cooperation with other online players in order to win.
- Simulation, real world skills. The most well known simulations are flight simulators, which attempt to mimic the reality of flying a plane. All of the controls, including airspeed, wing angles, altimeter, and so on, are displayed for the player, as well as a visual representation of the world, and are updated in real time.
Video games introduce your kid to computer technology and the online world. You should recognize that we are now living in a high-tech, sophisticated world. Video games make your kid adapt and be comfortable with the concepts of computing. This is particularly important for girls who typically are not as interested in high technology as much as boys.
Video games allow you and your kid to play together and can be a good bonding activity. Some games are attractive to kids as well as adults, and they could be something that they share in common. When your child knows more than you, he can teach you how to play and this allows you to understand your child’s skills and talents.
Video games make learning fun. Your kid likes games because of the colors, the animation, the eye candy, as well as the interactivity and the challenge and the rewards of winning. The best way to learn is when the learner is having fun at the same time. That’s why video games are natural teachers. Having fun gives your kid motivation to keep on practicing, which is the only way to learn skills.
Video games can make your kid creative. A study by the Michigan State University’s Children and Technology Project found a relation between video game playing and greater creativity, regardless of gender, race or type of video game played. (In contrast, use of cell phones, the Internet and computers other than video games was unrelated to creativity, the study found).
Video games can improve your kid’s decision making speed. People who played action-based video and computer games made decisions 25% faster than others without sacrificing accuracy, according to a study from the University of Rochester. Other studies suggests that most expert gamers can make choices and act on them up to six times a second—four times faster than most people, and can pay attention to more than six things at once without getting confused, compared to only four by the average person. Surprisingly, the violent action games that often worry parents most had the strongest beneficial effect on the brain, according to cognitive neuroscientist Daphne Bavelier, who studies the effect of action games at Switzerland’s University of Geneva and the University of Rochester in New York.
Video games increase your kid’s self-confidence and self-esteem as he masters games. In many games, the levels of difficulty are adjustable. As a beginner, your kid begins at the easy level and by constant practicing and slowly building skills, he becomes confident in handling more difficult challenges. Since the cost of failure is lower, he does not fear making mistakes. He takes more risks and explores more. Your kid can transfer this attitude to real life.
Games that involve multiple players encourage your child to work cooperatively to achieve his goals. Your kid learns to listen to the ideas of others, formulate plans with other kids, and distribute tasks based on skills. Some online games are even played internationally, and this can introduce your kid to players of different nationalities and cultures. This fosters friendships among different people.
Video games that require your kid to be active, such as Dance Dance Revolution and Nintendo Wii Boxing give your kid a good workout. When playing these active games for 10 minutes, your kid spends energy equal to or exceeding that produced by spending the same amount of time on a three miles an hour threadmill walk.
Kids are not necessarily drawn to video games because of their violence. The attraction lies in their being rewarded by awesome displays of explosions, fireworks, and yes, blood splattering. Also, violent games have the most emotional appeal for kids. But these factors are only secondary to what kids actually enjoy in these games – the opportunity to develop and master skills and have the freedom to make choices in the game universe.
Violent video games may act as a release of pent-up aggression and frustration of your kid. When your kid vents his frustration and anger in his game, this diffuses his stress. Games can provide a positive aggression outlet the same way as football and other violent sports.
Playing video games is safer than having your teens do drugs, alcohol and street racing in the real world.
While I disagree on the values being promoted by some games, I on positive engagement and moderation on the issue of digital games.