Nowadays, video games are part of the world of children, often from an early age. Children have access to cheap games on different platforms: the computer, game consoles, but also tablets and mobile phones. It is therefore important to regulate its use because some video games can involve risks. However, these games can also help children learn and develop skills. Therefore, it is not necessary to ban them.
The benefits of video games
Children can reinforce certain qualities and skills through the use of video games, depending on the type of games chosen. Several specialists have also recognized the benefits.
- Video games can foster bonding with others, both online (multiplayer games such as Fortnite) and offline, since around 70% of children share this interest.
- Some multiplayer games for example puzzle games, require teamwork and cooperation.
- Depending on their nature, video games can help improve a child’s self-esteem or mood. Although video games are not a solution to self-esteem issues, they can help children feel better. For example, a child who has lower self-esteem may, by successfully completing a mission or completing a level of the game, experience successes and thus develop a better self-image.
- Some video games develop skills useful for science subjects, such as logic, speed of information processing, and visual and spatial skills. They have an advantage over traditional games in this area, because the interaction and speed of execution required reinforce certain intellectual skills.
- Other slower video games, such as puzzles or certain puzzle games, improve problem-solving skills. Since the rules are unwritten, the child must be deductive and creative to solve problems in a wide variety of situations.
- Video games are less passive than television and can be an opportunity to actively teach certain subjects (mathematics, history, language) and to inform children about social themes. Well-chosen, these games can reinforce empathy, openness to realities other than one’s own and sharpen judgment.
- The main objective of video games is to motivate the player to complete the different levels in order to succeed in the game. Studies show an effect on the ability of the child to maintain his motivation in the long term and to persevere until the achievement of a task. This type of commitment can continue outside of play for example in sports and at school.
Risks associated with video games
We must remain vigilant and supervise the use of video games because they contain traps that can harm the development and health of the child.
- When a child spends time in front of a screen, they are not spending that time moving and being physically active. Even if your child is hopping and gesticulating in front of his favourite game, it does not replace the physical activity necessary for his psychomotor development.
- The brightness released by the different screens keeps the brain awake by reducing the level of melatonin, the hormone regulating sleep. It is therefore recommended to limit its use in the evening and to prevent the child from being exposed to it before bedtime.
- Regardless of the type of video game, the risk of developing an addiction is always present. However, the child who develops an addiction generally hides a problem of adaptation to his environment. Beyond the number of hours spent in front of the screen, certain behaviours constitute warning signals that may indicate an addiction: high level of anxiety, restlessness at school, presence of frequent nightmares and irritability. It is therefore important to remain attentive to what the child is going through.
Peter Wallace did his degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. He has an ongoing interest in mental health and well-being.