The current health crisis, in conjunction with the impending school holiday period, will result in students spending more time than usual, at home. One of our basic human needs is contact with others, so electronic devices will increasingly be used to enable contact with others. This time will also provide an opportunity for students who enjoy electronic gaming to indulge their passion for these activities without the constraints that are usually in place during term time. Students who experience extended periods of play during the holidays may find it difficult to resume routines associated with academic activities and homework commitments during term time.
Electronic games are enticing for players because these games are structured to provide novelty, escalating challenges and opportunities to master new skills. Gaming creates a climate of competition, heightened risk and excitement. Gifted students frequently use games to provide personal challenge, relaxation and to develop friendships, via electronic means. The opportunity to use electronic games will be particularly attractive during the additional time at home.
The concern that many parents have is how screen time affects students' well-being and academic performance. The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics recently published a meta-analysis of various studies associated with the use of screens, designed to identify the impact of screen usage on academic performance and the editorial of the same edition of JAMA considers the impact of screens on developmental outcomes and well-being. These authors acknowledge the factors involved are nuanced and need to be disentangled; but essentially, no link is found between screen usage and academic performance. The relationship between screen media use and well-being is impossible to link to a specific variable and further, more detailed exploration is required to clarify any link between screens and well-being.
There are some 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 all been associated with playing computer games. Players gain mastery and self-efficacy from playing computer games. A variety of skills such as the development of technological and programming skills, quick decision making, fast reflexes, eye-hand co-ordination, visual discrimination, goal setting strategies, striving for goals and increased persistence have also been developed through the use of computer games. Students may also use electronic games to facilitate social relationships – especially during periods when face-to-face contact is restricted. Expertise in gaming becomes an important currency in developing social relationships. After time at home, students need to step back from extended periods of gaming; to re-establish disciplined and focused routines that are necessary during term time if students are to achieve academically.
© Michele Juratowitch