Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Talk About It ~ Video Games: Good or Bad?

I've avoided writing about this topic for a while because things can get quite heated. There are very strong arguments on both sides of this topic and I can understand the points made in each.

When my kids were young, I never let them play any sort of computer games or video games unless they were the "boring" ones online or links they got from school. You know...the educational ones. ::gasp::  Treehouse used to have some wonderful games on there that were fun, interactive and entertaining. It's not much to sneeze at anymore but it's still a great site. Then they discovered my Nintendo game cube I had hidden as my own escape from school, writing and mommying (once they were in bed) and that pretty much ended their interest in the "lame baby games".

Fine. I'll take onus for that one.

In general, video games can be good on many points, however, I do agree with some of the points on the bad side too. So...let's talk about it.

First, the bad. May as well tackle this side first. Like my Grandpa always said, the bad stuff is a bit easier to digest when it's followed with something good. The most common point is that games can be addictive to the point where there is no interest in doing anything else (eg: going outside, playing with friends, doing other sorts of fun games, etc.). It can also distract from tasks that need to be paid attention to, such as chores, homework and, most importantly, sleep. In a few cases, I've actually seen almost withdrawal-like behavior (eg: anger, moodiness, zombie-like state, violent, etc.) when the game is not accessible or taken away. If things get to that point, some sort of intervention must be practiced before things go too far.

But, there is good too. My son was nonverbal until he was about five. He also had poor eye-hand coordination, inability to concentrate, Dyspraxia, deregulated easily and easily distracted. I got recommendations from his therapists to try different games and activities with him, including specific video games, in an attempt to coordinate and regulate him. Some of these games even improved his speech as he was given the opportunity to use his words. The key was incorporating the games into the other sensory-specific exercises he had to do so that it was received more as fun rather than therapeutic. I'm not just saying this either, but, his control over his hand movements and his eye-hand coordination have gotten much better too.

Obviously, there are a few things to keep in mind so that video game fun doesn't move into the obsessive/addictive stage:

  • Allow only a specific amount of time per day for gaming.
  • Try not allowing gameplay too close to bedtime so that the brain has a chance to rest to allow for sleep (experts say the same thing about cell phone use, television and other visual/brain-stimulating activities).
  • Have calming or less stimulating activities before and after playing.
  • Monitor aggression levels during play. We all tend to get a little frustrated while playing vids. Let's face it: it sucks to lose. But frustration to the point of violence, either to oneself or others, isn't okay and distraction to a calmer activity should be enforced.
  • Make video game time a privilege that's earned and can, and will, be taken away individual chores or expectations aren't met. (eg: No homework? No video games.
So, there you go. That's my side of the discussion. Trust me, I've had many talks with my young son who literally avoids any other sort of social interaction that takes away from his gaming. The key is to work it in to every day living and not allow it to become the entire reason for living. Yes, even right now where outside/social activities have been greatly reduced or eliminated, there are so many other things to do to keep busy.

Good luck, my friends!

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