Video Games: Four Reasons Why You Should Encourage Your Children to Play

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What is your overall feeling on letting your kids play video games? Are you a gadget family with video games and portable devices? Do you closely monitor your child's online time? Or, is online time—specifically when it comes to too much online time or online safety and security—the source of contention in your home or, better yet, a non issue because you avoid gaming all together?

After hosting several #gno Twitter parties this year on online safety and family gaming and running multiple giveaways in conjunction with them, I reread Daniel Pink's book A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future. And like it did the first time I read it, it reinforced my belief that video games can either be a time suck or a tremendous educational tool for our children. However, it is up to us as parents to make the most of our kids' gaming experiences. But before we delve into how to do that (that's for another post) or even how to protect our children (yet another post), let's talk about why gaming!

Why Parents Should Promote Gaming

Whether you are using XBox or Nintendo, playing from a console or a portable device, as a parent, these five reasons (taken from Daniel Pink's book) make compelling points on why you should make the most of your family's online gaming experiences.

1. Video games heighten learning in a hands-on way. Studies show that gaming helps kids with problem solving, self expression, and self exploration. Daniel Pink quotes James Paul Gee, writing:

The fact is when kids play video games they can experience a much more powerful form of learning than when they're in the classroom. Learning isn't about memorizing isolated facts. It's about connecting and manipulating them.

2. Play enhances problem solving skills. While there are many benefits to modern-day education, the traditional school's approach to teaching still follows an old-school approach through rote memorization, teaching to the lowest common denominator, and offering problem-solving opportunities through scenarios students must resolve in written format. Due to budget issues or old-school mentalities, experiential learning, which offers kids real-time problem-solving opportunities, are few and far between, if they exist at all.

Pink shares a study in which doctors who spent 3 hours a week playing video games made 37% less mistakes in surgery than the doctors who didn't play. Why? Because video games present real-time problems, challenges, and issues gamers must overcome quickly and under pressure, helping gamers develop strategic thinking abilities and resourcefulness to problem solve on the fly. I love this quote by Pat Kane, author of The Play Ethic:

Play will be to the 21st Century what work was to the last 300 years of industrial society—our dominant way of knowing, doing and creating value.

And this brings me to my third point.
3. Gaming helps children prepare for the Conceptual Age. How important is it for you to have your children do what the other kids are doing? In some instances, not so much. In other instances, especially when it comes to how they'll be able to relate to others and prepare for future careers, it's very important. According to one study Pink refers to, 100 students said they play or have played video games. And, when trying to find a movie they had all seen, they couldn't land on a single flick in comparison with a video game they had all played.

Now, I am not encouraging that you turn your kids into uber gamers just because others are doing it. But, given the other positive aspects of gaming and how it will impact our children's ability to relate to and prepare for the future (regarding their education and careers), in this instance I am recommending it.

And my favorite benefit?

4. Family gaming helps build relationships. While gaming certainly builds skills, the power of it comes in how it can simultaneously build relationships. Instead of sitting around a table with a board game these days, many families sit in front of a TV or network together from their computers or portable devices, and bond over the latest and greatest or their favorite video game. Can you relate?

Companies like GameStop, XBox, and Nintendo have shifted their marketing messages to family gaming in an attempt to bring families together through gaming.

Before I wrote about how to limit your kids' gaming time, about online safety, or what games are appropriate for what age levels, I felt it important to first make the point that video games rock... and not just because they are fun. They build skills like problem solving, they help develop attributes like teamwork and resourcefulness, they prepare our kids for the future, and they help families bond.

What are the most positive benefits you and your children experience from gaming?

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An active part of the Mom It Forward team, Jyl primarily writes about parenting, social good, and all things travel related. In a past life, Jyl was an award-winning copywriter and designer of corporate training programs for Fortune 100 companies. Offline, Jyl is married to @TroyPattee; a mom to two teen boys and a beagle named #Hashtag; loves large amounts of cheese, dancing, and traveling; and lives in the beautiful Rocky Mountains. Topping her bucket list is the goal to visit 50 countries by the time she's 50.

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