A report from a European parliament committee states that playing video games has a “broadly beneficial effect” on children’s mental development.
According to this study,
(Right, because when I think of ways to encourage creativity and cooperation, I think video games. Doesn’t everybody?)
The study also suggests that games should have a “red button” which parents could push to turn off a screen or disable game play, as “the possibility of harmful effects on the minds of children cannot be ruled out”.
Honestly, I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry.
While it can be argued that video games may aid in the development of a very specific skill set, I think the negatives here clearly outweigh the positive:
97% of children play video games, and they play often. Half of those surveyed had played within the last 24 hours.
Children aged 8-12 play video games for an average of 13 hours a week.
An abundance of screen time means less time spent outdoors. A 2008 study by the Outdoor Foundation reported an 11% decrease in outdoor activity among 6-17 year olds in one year.
Lack of outdoor time translates into lack of exercise. The Centers for Disease Conrol has found that the number of obese children has tripled over three decades; 15% are considered obese, while 30% are overweight. Childhood weight issues increase the risk of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, depression, and other health problems.
Time engaged by a screen takes away from time for free, unstructured play, which develops language and social skills, creative thinking, and problem-solving, as well as reducing stress.
So why release a study that praises video game time?
I hate to sound callous, but could it be because in spite of the economy, video games sales went up in the UK in 2008? Online gaming sites ( 107 of which are targeted to children under seven) also saw growth during the economic downturn.
What our kids need is more encouragement to turn off the video games and the computer screens.
What my kids (and I) definitely did not need was evidence rationalizing that video game time is good for them.
Photo Credit: Seth W. under Creative Commons