If you’ve been wondering if your child’s obsession with video games could be called an addiction, the World Health Organization announced that yes, it really is possible.
There are two ways to look at at video game addiction, one from a somewhat fatalist angle that holds that we’re living in a technology age and there’s no getting around it and the high tech skills that come from video games will serve the kids well in their educational pursuits, while another is that playing video games will build a child’s imagination, or increase his eye-hand coordination, or teach him to anticipate outcomes.
Tech skills do not equal reasoning skills
To put it simply, the biggest problem we have with video game addiction is that the tech skills won’t necessarily transfer as reasoning skills. In other words, parents (and kids too, for that matter) often hope that video game skills will make a child strong in his academic studies. Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen. The brain doesn’t work like that.
In Jane Healey’s excellent book, Endangered Minds, she mentions assumptions about transfer that adults have about kids’ video addictions, including the assumption that the high-speed action of a video game will transfer into their child’s ability to read faster and with better comprehension, or that exposure to video graphics will transfer into sharper visual-spatial reasoning, the kind of reasoning their child will have to do in geometry class.
Encapsulated skills, though, those that apply to one area and don’t transfer to another, aren’t unique to just video games – they apply to academic subjects as well. For example, teaching a child how to outline a story in English class doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll use the same thinking skills in history class.
Besides all that,
“It’s flawed thinking to assume that a high-level thinking skills can be accomplished by low-level methods.” – Cathy Canen
Faulty understanding of accomplishments
Just because a child can get through several levels of challenges in a game doesn’t mean that he’s equipped the brain with new problem-solving strategies. He’s just finding smart ways through a maze through trial and error, and, though it sounds cold to say it, we all know that lab animals can do the same thing.The problem that I see that’s worst of all is that kids who master a video game come away thinking they’ve achieved a goal that matters.
Tenacity matters, that’s true, sticking to a goal matters, that’s true too, but those attributes can be attained in ways that are going to form character in a child in ways that video characters never can.
What do we do?
So, do we forbid kids from playing video games? I don’t think so, but that’s a parent’s call; it depends on the child and how strongly he’s addicted to gaming.
Putting time limits on games usually helps, or linking strong school performance to half-hour gaming privileges, or even making completed schoolwork several days in a row the reward for buying a new game – these can all make for a powerful “currency” that a child might love to work for.
Scientists say that it’s too early to name this newly identified addiction, and for now they’re just acknowledging that it’s real. But we moms could have told them that decades ago.
Here are some alternatives to video games:
- Real games
- Indoor fun activities
- Summer book lists
- Summer field trips
- Wild Kratts science cartoons or nature documentaries
- Shark week crafts and activities
- Create holiday art like these patriotic printables
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Most days you’ll find Katie Hornor answering client emails or working on her next book in the front room coffee shop of their 250 year old home in tropical Mexico. She’s a Christian author, curriculum writer, speaker, missionary, homeschool Mom of 5, and founder of TheBlogConnection.com. Get to know her family and homeschool resources here.