Are video games good for children and young people? – Reader’s Feature

A reader draws upon his experience of working in schools and education to ask whether video games a negative or positive influence on kids.

Recently in the news it seems that games have come under a lot of scrutiny from certain circles, about the effect they are having on children and the young people of today. This is not exactly a new topic, even in my lifetime I remember scares about violence and gore in games like Mortal Kombat and Carmageddon.

After seemingly every incident or act of violence, figures in the public eye, including politicians, seemingly look for a root cause for any acts of atrocity against other human beings.

So the ultimate question? Are games good for children and young people? Being a worker in education at both primary and secondary level, I thought it was about time to provide an answer from my own experiences.

In short, yes, I believe they are. So, let’s consider my response under three points…

1) Games add another layer to learning

Children and young people today are growing up with games. The adults from the last few generations have grown up with video games. Therefore, arguably, it is embedded in our very culture. They know and are used to the mechanics of games. Complete the level, collect points or tokens, move to next level and/or defeat boss. They are used to certain parameters and conditions to advance, therefore why not use these to help them achieve their academic best in a way they relate to?

2) Games offer a social opportunity

Again, there are many counter arguments to this point; games could keep students away from talking to each other face to face. However, many students are able to talk both to their friends and new people from all over the world due to the popularity of online, network gaming. Crucially, it also enables them to communicate over a common interest, whether this is building worlds in a creation game like Minecraft or kicking a ball around a FIFA field (or with a car in Rocket League). There really is something for everyone out there and communities can be based on interest as opposed to geographical region.

3) Games offer a way in and a way forward

Since I started working in schools my background has always been on helping students under an Additional or Special Educational Needs umbrella. I have definitely noticed a direct correlation between the use of video games and the number of students requiring support. Crucially, I’m happy to report that this is a positive link.

For instance, I recall an autistic male student with social and emotional difficulties being able to recall numerous facts and features from the world of Terraria. He would then use this knowledge to copy the artwork of the game, and amazingly create his own characters, creatures and concepts.

For him this was his world, a world that would not have been brought to life so vividly without that initial connection and stimuli. Dare I ask, in what other medium can students connect to a subject with such passion and response?

There are many aspects of this question which I have been unable to cover, such as adult-classified games being played by underage minors and the balance between parental responsibility and parental choice (this is not to mention the legal responsibilities of retailers). Another aspect would be geographical differences (for instance comparing the gaming habits of a child in South Korea to a child in the UK).

In conclusion, how can we really know the answer to this question? Well perhaps by asking the young people themselves. I wonder what they would say…

By reader Aaron Martin

The reader’s feature does not necessary represent the views of GameCentral or Metro.

You can submit your own 500 to 600-word reader feature at any time, which if used will be published in the next appropriate weekend slot. As always, email [email protected] and follow us on Twitter.

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