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Gaming for Life?

15/07/2013 | Child Health, Room to Grow | by Catherine Godiva

We’re all supposed to tut knowledgeably when the subject of gaming and our children comes up but are we as knowledgeable about gaming as we think we are. For many years the consensus has always seemed to be that too much gaming was not good and was going to breed a generation of individuals unable to communicate or think without a controller in their hands. Well, there appears to be some hope for our little ones after all in the form of a recent report released by such luminaries as the European Union, Harvard University and the Office for Naval Research all come out in favour of gaming.

Despite concerns that the violent content of many console games can be the first step on the road to a life of goodness knows what, there is no firm proof that gaming has had and negative impact on children’s behavior. Phew, that’s that one covered off then.

So, what positives can you expect if your child seems to have had a controller surgically implanted into their hand? According to Toine Manders, the Dutch MEP responsible for the EU report video games can have a distinctly positive effect on children. He claims that they can be influential in gaining strategic thinking skills when negotiating complicated game plays. They are also good at stimulating creativity and the latest generation of games, where individuals can team up with other players elsewhere in the world are perfect vehicles for introducing team working behaviours. Manders claims that these and many other skills are all important in our modern society.

Manders calls for gaming consoles to be used creatively to support education and has urged parents to get involved in the gaming activities with their children. It’s worth bearing in mind just how many games there are out there. The selection is wide and the vast majority of them do not have the content that gets reported in the press. Stories that are not violent just don’t sell newspapers after all. Additionally the facts do support this. The entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) claims that of 1,700 games rated last year, 60 percent were rated as E, or suitable for everyone.

There are strong detractors from this position though. Keith Vaz MP, Chair of the influential Home Affairs Select Committee in parliament has stated in no uncertain terms his feelings about one game, Grand Theft Auto which he described As “violent and nasty” Manders report does say that some games have content that can lead to undesirable behaviour but if you think this is the justification for stopping your child using games consoles until they are at least 35 then think on this. Virginia’s Office of Naval Research in has published research where they maintain that video games can help adults deal with information more quickly as well as improve reaction times and their skills of reasoning and problem solving so perhaps stopping them playing Grand Theft Auto until they are 35 isn’t such a bad idea after all.

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