Was I too harsh on: Computer games?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about how the use of apps can eat into our quality time with our kids and whilst I stand by what I said wholeheartedly I’ve had a few comments about how positive these kinds of games can be for children. First off there’s the video above which was sent to me by a friend whose job relies on the games industry (he specifically works on providing independent games companies with more affordable production software). OK, I’ve established that he has a vested interest in defending computer games (just as I’ll happily admit to a vested interest in toys and traditional games), but I see his point entirely. I won’t go through all the details of what can be positive about sharing the gaming experience with your child, the video above does a thorough job of that itself, however I will admit that I downplayed the bonding potential of a computer game.

New teenage mutant ninja turtlesOne of the main reasons for this is pretty simple; back when I played computer games my parents had basically no experience of using these kinds of systems. My dad had a good crack at it (as many dads of the 80s and 90s did, why wouldn’t you?) but there wasn’t an established ‘gamers culture’ at that point, at least nothing comparable to what exists today. As I explained in my post last week about the bonding potential offered by companies that re-sell us our childhood (as I put it) those of us who are parents now are in a position of advantage compared to our own parents. We are familiar with the ways of sci-fi/superhero cartoons, we understand (if not belong) to ‘gamers culture’ not to mention countless other innovations which we witnessed the birth of that are an engrained part of everyday life now. Most technology doesn’t look as ‘new-fangled’ to us as it might have to our parents and as a result we can, of course, enjoy a more shared experience with our children when it comes to their gaming.

time with kids playing board gamesThe next criticism I received worried me; someone pointed out that what I had  said in ‘Quality Time‘ (and in the ‘Strathallan Times’ article it spawned) could be seen as offensive to parents of children with autism who use apps to engage with their children and to help them develop. Believe me, it was not my intention to include parents in this unique situation in my criticisms of the use of apps to keep kids occupied. When it comes to interacting with a child who sits on the autistic spectrum you should grasp any progress you make. If you need to use a tablet/phone/computer to do that then do it, in those early years anything you can do to connect with your child and motivate them to interact should be encouraged. I apologise if what I said neglected to acknowledge this.

Melissa and Doug Backyard Explorer dress up set costume

Melissa and Doug Backyard Explorer dress up set available from Fun Junction (£19.99)

With these two criticisms under my belt I should perhaps feel sheepish but I do feel justified in what I said. There are of course many positive things that can be gained from gaming, however I don’t think this should be at the expense of exposing your child to non-electronic forms of entertainment. There’s a wealth of possibilities for teaching your child about the world and among these are a vast selection of activities which can help your child develop a unique understanding of who they are as individuals. Computer games contribute one element to this but there are board games, books, music, sport, crafts, arts activities and more ‘outside the box’ activities like archaeology or entomology which children could easily participate in. Computer games and apps are great but it’s our job as parents to show our children the great variety of entertainment which the world has to offer them.

Was I too harsh on computer games in my previous post? I don’t think I was, I neglected to mention a couple of positive aspects but my problem with games and apps still stands: I still think there’s a standing danger of them being over-used as ways to keep a child occupied. Do you think I’ve been overly critical about computer games? What are your own experiences of children and computer games? Should we go so far as to force our children to try a new activity ‘for their own good’? As always thank you for reading and I look forward to hearing what you have to say, Cheers, John

P.S. This is the first of my ‘Was I too harsh on…’ posts, please let me know if you have read any posts here that you thought of as ‘too harsh’ and I’ll put together a reply.