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Can gaming be good?

This morning, as I reflected on the various roles technologies can take a stranglehold on people’s lives, I was listening to the book “Raising a Screen Smart Kid, Embrace the Good and Avoid the Bad in the Digital Age”.  I was a bit surprised during the chapter on gaming in which Julianna Miner describes the many ways in which gaming creates a positive role in children’s lives.  She was quick to admit that there are a number of negatives as well, but her main belief was in support of the role that gaming plays to the type of kid that may have trouble fitting in in other areas of life.

My opinion on the matter is in fact fairly harsh on the gaming community.   Especially in younger aged kids, I have seen how the reward mechanisms within a game are so powerful that they trigger a very addictive response.

Not only from the aspect of lights flashing when something good happens, to the fulfillment of social needs within a social online game.  My opinion is that these are pseudo-fulfillment feelings and do not reflect a true life experience.  

I have observed how kids can become so immersed in a game that their perception of reality gets effected.  Often, the way a child interacts in real life can be influenced by their gaming interactions.  

I know education is trying to take advantage of game-learning to make education more stimulating and fun.  I am concerned, however, that instead of developing children that enjoy learning for the sake of learning, rather we are teaching children to enjoy learning because of the short term rewards incorporated by the educational game.  

As a dad, I do make use of a number of educational technology tools, however, I do my best to make sure it is not the majority of the time we spend in learning. 

In the higher education realm, educators are noticing a marked difference in how much time students are able to spend learning a topic.  Training videos are limited to 8 minutes in length.   The ability for students to learn via text is diminishing do to being hyper trained to learn via advanced media productions.  

I, once again, am reminded of how the early years of child development can instill the value of patience during learning, grit and determination when things are hard.   

Angela Duckworth wrote one of my favorite books entitled “Grit”.  I have gone back to this book time and time again as I seek to remind myself what influences children during their formative years to develop the characteristic of grit.  The short answer is, kids must fail.  As they fail in life, they learn to struggle, and overcome.  

Embrace the Struggle

It is a challenge to allow your kids to struggle.  Especially as the failures become larger.  But developing the perseverance muscle takes struggling, and learning how to overcome.  If you help you child out of the struggle, they may develop an identity that they cannot do it on their own.   

Look for ways to use little struggles as times to re-affirm a child that they can do hard things on their own.   Especially if it is something you know your child excels at more naturally than other aspects.  

For example, my daughter was quick to taking to water.   At two years old, I remember playing in the pool with her and seeing her push in areas of the pool that were deeper than she could reach.  At times I would help her along, but I would also let her struggle in the water, to feel how hard it was to keep afloat.  I would mentor her efforts and suggest ways to make it work, and soon I was letting her enter the deep end under my surveillance.  
I am not suggesting for parents to be foolish and put their children in harm.

Instead, I am suggesting that we observe closely and intently, but intentionally allow for struggles to occur.  When the moment occurs when a child has a breakthrough, be sure to make a huge celebration.  It will re-enforce their own self-belief that they can do the thing they originally thought they could not do.

I fully admit that I have the personality to become a life-long gamer.  I could find my community there.  It is precisely the reason why I try to avoid it, because I am concerned that it would consume so much of my time that I would only be developing my gaming abilities and missing out on creating real connections outside of the gaming world.  

For my children, knowing that the development of the brain to implement self-control and executive function does not fully arrive until around 18 years old.  There is a reason why so many adult activities are required to be 18 years or older to make the decision to be exposed to.

February 14, 2020

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