Imagine you’re a parent (this is less of a stretch for those of you who already have children). Your child is growing up in a world in which people use cell phones to check email and rely on GPS narration to guide them through unfamiliar territory. And of course, the ubiquity of computer and video games is unavoidable.
So, do you let your kids play them?
Let’s face it. The game industry is growing. Computer and video games are published every day. Story lines are becoming more complicated, and gameplay mechanics are changing. Often, toddlers as young as 2 years old play computer games or iPhone games on a regular basis. Isn’t this harmful?
According to Marc Prensky, the contrary is true. Kids can actually learn more positive and useful things from computer and video games than from school, depending on how teachers and parents moderate kids’ gameplay experiences.
Think about how much attention and energy kids devote to computer and video games. Now compare that to the attention and energy they put forth in the classroom. I can assure you that there are as many kids catching Z’s in the classroom as there were back in the “old days” before classrooms had interactive white boards and computers. But why? What’s the draw of video games?
For one, kids, just like adults, love challenges. Give a kid an overly easy assignment, and you’ll catch them throwing paper airplanes soon after, counting down the minutes until recess. Give a kid a challenging assignment with the proper tools and scaffolding to help them complete it, and you get a focused and excited student.
In addition, kids love getting better at stuff. Think about common pastimes from childhood, like jumping rope. Why did we enjoy doing it over and over again? Because we could feel ourselves getting better, or, as they say in the game world, we got the chance to level up.
Without a doubt, the current body of research supporting the positive effects of computer and video games lacks depth and longitudinal analysis, largely because computer and video games are only a few decades old. However, Prensky’s findings are promising. Why fight with your kids when you can give them what they want knowing that it’s good for them? Everyone can win.
The next time you’re in the library or bookstore, keep an eye out for Marc Prensky’s latest book, Don’t Bother Me Mom – I’m Learning! It’s definitely a worthy read for parents and non-parents alike.