Three ways to deal with too much gaming, Part I

Young child using gaming control

So, my child’s favourite holiday pastime is … playing on the computer!

Not what I want every super-efficient, child-educating-mum down my street to know, is it? Not every mother-earth type’s first choice of entertainment either. Oh dear! The dreaded thing has happened – the truth is out! My kids are becoming cyborgs.

What about your kids? What do they really like doing? Don’t tell me – playing medieval knights in an open field, with old sheets for tents and cardboard boxes for castles. Or, den-making in the neighbour’s raspberry patch. Or skipping marathons in the local park. Well, not mine. Despite having fields all around us, and a forest up the road, we often have to winkle-pick them out of their computer games just to acknowledge the sun is shining. We keep on trying though.

They’ve both got bikes (which secretly they enjoy); they love going swimming, and hanging with their friends. But given the choice, on a nice sunny afternoon, they’d rather be battling some invading force and digitally saving the world than playing football or reading a nice book. Now, I know some families live in areas where they have way more facilities than us (actually, we only have fields and butterflies), but even then I know that many kids still ‘game’ more than their parents think is healthy. So what do we do?

  1. Panic. Everybody knows too much screen-gazing is bad for your health.
  1. Feel guilty. You might not know what to do, but you can still feel guilty. Right?
  1. Discover that gaming may not be the enemy you think it is.

What! You mean there might be something good about my child’s riveted interest in a plastic rectangle that displays a variety of coloured lights, and the occasional word?

Maybe. You see, in Gabe Zickermann’s TED talk  , he explains how video games skilfully hone our children’s multi-tasking abilities. He cites researchers at the University of Ravensburg in Germany who discovered that when subjects were given a complex task to learn, like juggling, the grey matter in their brains had measurably increased after only twelve weeks of practice. It became clear that it wasn’t the performance of the skill itself which made the difference, but the act of actually learning a complex skill.  Similarly, it seems, people who speak several different languages have more grey matter in their brain than those who only speak one.

Zickermann goes on to explain that problem-solving intelligence requires that we do five things:

  1. Seek novelty
  2. Challenge ourselves
  3. Think creatively
  4. Do things the hard way
  5. Network

Aren’t these the things that most video games are based on?

Jane McGonigal, PhD goes a bit further than saying such games are useful: she says they’re essential if we want to solve problems like poverty, hunger, climate change and global conflict. She reckons we need to be playing over 21 billion hours of video games a week! Why? Well, according to McGonigal, gaming elicits deep concentration and intense focus which will eventually lead to an ‘epic win’.  She describes this as “an outcome that was so extraordinarily positive, you had no idea it was possible until you achieved it.” Something, in fact, that was “beyond the threshold of imagination”.

Well, looking at the state of things, I’d say we could do with a few more ‘epic wins’. How about you? Do you think our kids are becoming digital natives in a way that we will never be, and do you think it’s a good thing, or a bad thing? Write a note in the comments box below and tell me what you think.

Now, where did I put that laptop?

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  1. Thanks Jackie, so good to read a post extolling the virtues of gaming rather than feeding in to parents’ fears. I have always been amazed at how much concentration, effort and intelligence is needed for gaming – I watch my children in awe – and I notice that they are still well-rounded and social human beings! The fear-mongering certainly doesn’t help parents manage this area of life, which after all is our kids’ future.


    • Jackie Charley
      4 years ago

      Yes Stephanie, I reckon that our kids will surprise us and surpass us in learning to use the technology behind gaming for our good. I think the wisdom of ensuring they have more than one outlet for their curiosity and creativity remains important, but that doesn’t negate the good stuff they can learn from playing computer games.

      Thanks for your comment.

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