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The Online Mom provides internet technology advice and information to help parents protect their kids, encourage responsible behavior and safely harness the power of technology in the new digital world. Social networking, photo sharing, video games, IM & texting, internet security, cyberbullying, educational resources, the latest on tech hardware, gadgets and software for kids 3-8, tweens and teens, and more.

Maybe Video Games Are Not As Bad As We Feared!



By Stacey Ross

As parents, we’ve all experienced that dreaded moment. We finally have our cart full of groceries and are approaching the register when Little Johnny shows all the signs of having a major meltdown. But wait – help is just an arm's reach away! I am talking about the modern-day lifesaver: that shiny chunk of technology tucked away in our bag of tricks and ready to be whipped out at a moment’s notice!

Some naysayers are convinced that our public-outburst pacifiers or insta-babysitters are not only social crutches but portals that seduce young brain cells to waste away in Video Game Land! And to them I say: “Perhaps so; perhaps not.”

Cop-out or convenience?

There are valid concerns about the negative impact technology can have on our youth – overstimulation, social isolation, and Internet addiction to name just a few. It appears, though, that sometimes fear is what gets the best of us and closes our minds to the vast possibilities that technology offers. And yes, that includes video games!

Studies are emerging that shed light on some uplifting findings about how this stimulation might not be as detrimental as many had suspected.

Don't toss your video games just yet!

Brace yourself: Gamers are more creative! In a three-year study of 491 middle school students, researchers at Michigan State University's Children and Technology Project found that the more children played video games, the higher their scores on a standardized test of creativity. The results held true regardless of race, gender, or the kind of game played.

Video games and behavioral changes

Another  report published in March, 2013 focuses on a long-term study of 11,000 children born in the United Kingdom between 2000 and 2001. The Millennium Cohort Study asked parents to record details of their children's lives. This included how often the children watched television, DVDs or videos, or played electronic games.

The parents then answered questions about their children's behavior, emotions, social lives, and hyperactivity between the ages of five and seven. The results indicated that that the children who played video games (often age-appropriate games) for up to three hours a day displayed less negative behavioral changes than the kids who spent an equivalent time watching TV.

Where do we go from here?

We would surely benefit from more long-term studies that specifically show how prolonged exposure to computer games can change children's behavior, but it’s possible that we have underestimated the mental growth that can come about by playing such games, especially if they include an educational component. We have seen only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to video games and their beneficial impact on speech, learning, and other complex functions.

Of course, there is always the danger that extended chunks of screen time could pose social concerns and lead to health risks. It would also be good to see comparative studies that focused on children who spent similar amounts of time learning a musical instrument, taking dance lessons, or learning another language.

It’s still smart for parents to limit the total amount of time that kids spend playing video games and take safety precautions when their kids start to venture online. What we do know is that today's technology will have a powerful impact on our kids. We should approach it with open eyes and open minds!

Stacey Ross is an online consultant, social media enthusiast, freelancer and owner of SanDiegoBargainMama.com. A former teacher and middle school counselor, she is now a mom of two who researches and freelances about lifestyle topics involving family and well-being.

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