computer gaming

Sometimes parents find themselves in a no-win situation — they need to do something urgently, but the only way of keeping the kids busy while they are occupied is either the TV or a computer game. Normally you wouldn’t want them doing either, but there are times when there appears to be no way around it: so what is the lesser evil?

A study just completed may shed some light on the dilemma. Research from the Queensland University of Technology in Australia suggests that computer games are generally “better” for your kids than watching the TV. The study was carried out at by Senior Lecturer Dr Daniel Johnson who has a broad area of expertise taking in Science and Engineering, Computer Science and Computer Human Interaction. He says the research shows computer games can in certain circumstances help to boost a child’s self esteem, their mental development and even their physical activity levels.

“Video games are much more cognitively active, much more engaging and we are also seeing that there is a huge range of computer games that are much more physically active and engaging for children,” he told Australia’s ABC television news.

The research also investigated how long Australian children were spending watching television and playing computer games and found most children between two and five years old spent more than the recommended one hour in front of a screen per day. But Dr Johnson concluded that this was not always a negative thing.

“For the right child playing the right game three to four hours might not be too much time to spend playing a game,” he said in the television interview which was cut short before he was able to explain how this could be so.

Of course there are certain types of educational software around that might fall into this positive category, but the story has already been picked up by the promoters of computer games and is being spread with very little explanation. The website has published an article headed: “New research finds video games are better for children than TV”.

Comments on the site include: “Cool. Good to see research being done into stuff like this that isn’t straight from the point of view that “Games are bad”, regardless of the results of that research.”

Thankfully there are some more balanced responses: “I think this is correct so long as the right games are played and by that I mean games such as Minecraft where the child can use their imagination and creativity to explore things in a virtual environment. Games such as Call of duty (even though its bullet hits consist of money and jam spraying forth) are definitely wrong for kids under a certain age.”

A single study does not necessarily constitute the final word on such a complex issue. Even researchers who are positive about games acknowledge that outdoor games can be at least as much fun. Clearly, as much as possible, parents would be well advised to continue to steer their children away from both computer games and television.

For those who want to watch the ABC news report, they can find it here.

William West

William West is a Sydney journalist.