Despite “a lot of confusion and a lot of fear,” experts have yet to see any of many myths of video games being harmful to children materialize.
UC Irvine Professor of Informatics Constance Steinkuehler spoke at a recent video game seminar at the university, acknowledging that video games can — like any other form of pleasure-seeking — be addictive, but that games in themselves are more of a benefit than detriment.
Steinkuehler called video games “the one media that turns screen time into activity time” and an effective outlet for children to “[blow] off steam.” Despite the way it might seem to the adults around them, children deal with equal levels of stress. While their problems may seem comparatively minor, they are still often functioning at a very high capacity for their respective stages of development. Video games represent an active, rather than passive, way for children to unwind.
That in no way signifies the dawn of a new electronic babysitter. Just as with television or anything else, parents “should be alert for obsessive behavior,” advises Scot Osterweil, creative director for MIT’s Education Arcade. “Too much screen time in general is bad for all of us.”
Both agree that the correlation between video games and violent crime is, by all appearances, completely bogus. Violent crime has steadily dropped during the lifetime of video games — an industry that pulled in a healthy $30 million last year, as it continues to enjoy meteoric growth. Osterweil said that “if there was a correlation between video games and violence, we should see it.”
Northeastern University Game Design Program Director Magy Seif El-Nasr took it a step further, suggesting that video games are an opportunity. She says that parents should “make it a bonding activity.” By showing interest in their hobbies, gaming “allows you to spend time with your kids and talk to them.”
It is, of course, easier to denigrate than participate. People have been calling out the imagined brooding malice of the next generation’s preferred pastimes long before radio, motion pictures, television, and the Internet. But whether it’s Dungeons & Dragons, rock ‘n roll, or Call of Duty, the real crux still seems to be active, conscious parenting — even when your kids do not like exactly the same things you did.
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