Video games, computer or otherwise have become one of the biggest money-making industries in the world today, second in their ability to deliver exciting content only to Hollywood blockbusters with the added benefit of interactivity. However, video games can be used for more than just recreation, they can be used to teach children of all ages.
It’s easy for children to pick up things that they are enjoying, possibly even easier than for adults. Behavioral psychologists have shown that skillsets picked up as part of a hands-on education program are more easily acquired than those studied from a textbook or taught by a tutor. Similarly, in a computer study on very young children tasks learned through play were much easier remembered than those taught through repetition. These two studies seem to suggest that humans and especially children are better at learning while they’re having fun than through traditional teaching methods. Educational computer games therefore seem like a viable training tool for children of all ages, but particularly effective with younger ones wh can still appreciate an educational game without the inevitable comparison to triple A releases.
Of course not every game is educational. If you let your six year old play Dora the Explorer games you might get significantly better results than if you let them play whatever they can get their hands on just like they would benefit more from watching Dora the Explorer on TV than from watching infomercials. And as always, care must be taken to avoid kids spending too much time in front of the computer screen as this can lead to vision problems.
There are of course several other issues that have, over time been blamed on video games. One recurring theme is the lack of social skills of the child that spends too much time in front of a computer or video game. Some autism spectrum disorders such as Asperger’s Syndrome have also been blamed on games by irate parents, as have incidents of violence. These, of course, are all purely speculative more often than not blamed on incorrect or downright misleading data. Autism spectrum disorders cannot be ‘acquired’ and social skills have less to do with video games and more with the respect and desire for interaction with others instilled in children, as well as with individual personality. The link between games and violence has long been researched and no conclusive evidence of influence has been revealed.
If you’re considering games as an educational tool for your children, remember that, games can serve as a fun way of learning new things but it can never take the place of a parent nor should it be used as a ‘babysitter’. Educational games are a learning tool and like a learning tool it has to be stowed away at the end of the day.