Humans usually fear the unknown. As each generation adopts a new behaviour, adults fear the likelihood that this behaviour will corrupt our youth. The advent of tight jeans, long hair, pantyhose, rock and roll music and television have all been attributed with the power to corrupt youth at various times. Currently there is a concern about the use of computer games. Some students enjoy computer games as a form of relaxation, interaction and challenge, but many parents are concerned about the time spent gaming (sometimes instead of studying) and about the potential danger associated with exposure to violent electronic games. With assessments and holidays looming, now is the time to have a discussion about the potential risks and benefits of gaming.
Like many new technologies, there are positive and negative factors as well as complex societal dynamics associated with game usage. Electronic computer games are not necessarily harmful, and some benefits associated with the use of computer games have been identified. Students experience challenge, mastery, 'flow' and gain a sense of self-efficacy from playing computer games. There are indicators that computer game usage can enhance cognitive function. Improved perceptual reasoning, systematic and evaluative processes, problem solving capacities, scientific thinking and metacognitive skills have been associated with computer games. Skills such as development of technological and programming skills, quick decision making, fast reflexes, eye-hand co-ordination, goal setting strategies and striving for goals are sometimes developed by using computer games.
Some of these skills are directly associated with specific professional skills. The US Air Force identifies students with rapid response time and excellent eye-hand co-ordination (the result of playing computer games) as being ideal for flight training. Surgeons who play computer games have shown improved surgical techniques, especially in suturing and laparoscopy procedures. Socialisation skills have been improved when multiplayer online games have created a group of 'cyberfriends'; gaming skills can act as a social conduit and 'war stories' associated with games provide a focus for discussion with other students. Despite these benefits, there is another side to gaming, and it is important to explore further when assessing if there is a negative impact associated with electronic gaming. Through observations and discussions, I suggest considering the questions below:
- What type of games are played?
- What are the content, focus and control factors in place?
- For how long are the games played?
- When are the games played?
- With whom are the games played?
- Is the student playing games alone?
- Are games used in conjunction with other activities?
- Is there a balance of physical and social activities?
- Does the use of games intrude on other important activities?
- How much gaming is too much at specific times?
- Does there appear to be an addictive aspect to the use of games?
© Michele Juratowitch