There is nothing in life that doesn’t come with a downside, as well as its good side. New technologies are particularly prone to being alternately lauded for their potential benefits and deplored for their faults. Video games are no exception, and since their introduction, there has been a great deal of debate and controversy over their use; especially the effects they may have on children.

There are many benefits to allowing children to experience all that video games have to offer. They are a great introduction to computers, entertaining and simple to begin using. Having some early encounters with technology will make a child more confident and capable when they come to use computers for schoolwork. They will become familiar with using technology, without having to be forced into it by teachers, or even feeling like they are learning at all.

However, an adverse effect on academic work had also been noted. Often a child will spend much longer playing a game than they should. This can result in neglected schoolwork and poor work results.

Many video games provide opportunities to develop logic and lateral thinking. The child is required to solve puzzles and cope with a changing, surprising story. They must work out how to get through each task; there is no way of skipping past the problem and going onto the next stage. There are plenty of games that are fast-paced and visually oriented as well. They require quick reactions and close attention to detail. As the child plays, they are developing their motor skills and spatial awareness.

On the flip side, there are many violent video games on the market, and these are often highly attractive to young gamers. There have been a number of claims that playing violent games can nurture aggression in a child, and similarly, that gamers who spend long periods of time immersed in their virtual world, can lose sight of where fantasy and reality are divided.

Gamers spending long periods of time alone absorbed in their play, is what many people cite as a major hazard of video games. This is a real concern if the child is spending many hours alone, and avoiding spending time with other people — particularly with friends of their own age. Childhood is an important time for the development of social skills. Many games available today allow for a more social aspect to the experience however, encouraging families and friends to play together. Parents may find that they spend more time with their children if they have a favorite video game on which to focus, rather than trying to induce them to play an old-fashioned board game. Often it is an attraction to the screen to see what has captured their child’s imagination that brings a parent into the world of video gaming and the opportunities for spending quality time together that they present.

There are clearly two sides to this argument, with perhaps as many people claiming remarkable benefits for the use of video games as there are raising an outcry against the damage being done to young children. There is even some scientific evidence for the therapeutic power of video games- although, of course, this depends on the game and how addictive the patient finds it.

The most sensible route for parents to take is to set certain rules for their children when it comes to video game use, rather than opting for an outright ban or allowing children to play whatever games they like, whenever they like. It is important to set a limit on how long the child is allowed to play each day. An hour is a fair time, providing an opportunity for the game to be enjoyed and progress made through the levels, without preventing the child from having time for other activities or missing out on important hours of sleep.

Many parents feel it is important to ensure all homework and chores are done before the game can be switched on. This acts as an incentive to finish the work and means that the child isn’t trying to solve math problems or write an essay when they’re already tired out by gaming.

If there are any concerns about the types of games that a child might be playing, they can be solved by accompanying them when they go to buy or rent a game, and by having a discussion about the suitability of what the child wants. The parent can help make an age appropriate choice. Should a child begin to be spending too much time alone, parents can help by joining in with the game, so that there is at least some social activity involved with playing. It is the way in which video games are used that proves either good or bad for a child, and not in the fact of their existence alone.

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