Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Friday, April 30, 2010

The Video Game Controversy


Video games are a large part of society and very much a part of the family. One study found that children and adolescents play video games for just less than 1 hour per day (Roberts et al., 2005). This is a lot of time spent playing video games! Many people wonder what the effect of these video games are on our children and society in general. In general, people believe that video games have primarily negative effects but what does the research show?

Video game effects have been broken up into 5 categories that must be looked at:

  • Amount: The overall amount of video games played is most related to school performance. The suggestion is that as children spend more time playing video games that leaves less time for doing homework. Consider the following quote by M. Russell Ballard (2004): "One of the ways Satan lessens your effectiveness and weakens your spiritual strength is by encouraging you to spend large blocks of your time doing things that matter very little. I speak of such things as sitting for hours on end watching television or videos, playing video games night in and night out...What will you say to the Lord when He asks what you have done with the precious gift of life and time? Surely you will not feel comfortable telling Him that you were able to pass the 100,000-point level in a challenging video game."
  • Content: Specific to the content of the game. The primary purpose of the game has an impact on those behaviors. For example, prosocial games have been found to increase prosocial behavior (Gentile et al., 2009).
  • Structure: Specific to the formal features of the game. The more realistic the game is the faster the learning and transferring of the game.
  • Context: Cooperation and teamwork. The difference between playing alone or with friends.
  • Mechanics: The actual devices used. The closer the device is to reality, the greater the effect.
To have the greatest effect you must examine all 5 categories. One study looked at laparoscopic surgeons and their video game usage. Here is what was found within these 5 categories:
  • Amount: They played for a certain amount of time each day
  • Content: The game had variations, complications, errors and so forth
  • Structure: 3D-2D games were used making it as realistic as possible
  • Context: Sense of urgency that is similar to surgery
  • Mechanics: The devices used are similar to surgical tools
This study found that those who played the video games were more efficient and effective in their surgery (Rosser et al., 2007).

Now at this point in time the research on video games effects is very limited and needs much more; however, it has been found the video games can have positive or negative effects. The important thing is to look at these 5 categories both independently and as a whole.

What are your thoughts on this research. Do you agree that video games can have positive or negative effects? How can we as parents maximize the positive effects and minimize the negative effects?

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