Don’t Hate the Player OR the Game: The Hidden Benefits of Video Games for Kids

video gamesI’m a ’90s kid. My munchkins already think that makes me super old, but one day I’ll tell them that I’m actually older than all of the Playstations, Xboxes, and almost all of the Nintendos in the world.

Video game culture was a major part of growing up during that time. I wore down the buttons on my Gameboy. I was so enamored with that thing and fondly remember blowing the bottom of the cartridges out before putting them into the console. This was during a time before “screen time” per se, and if your room was clean and homework was done, you’d be rewarded with some time with your game system.

Fast forward to now when kids use computers at school, have access to the entire world on their tablets/phones, and more likely than not, have a gaming console of some sort. It can honestly be a lot of time in front of a screen.

While some parents completely frown upon screen time, I actually encourage it. Well, let me rephrase that. I have reasons why I encourage it in moderation, particularly when it comes to video games.

It can be a much-needed escape. My kiddos have a lot going on between home, school, and various extracurricular activities. Sometimes, like us, they need an escape. They are not holed up in their rooms on the computer in the dark with headphones on, ignoring the world. But, like my parents allowed, if their homework is done, their chores are finished, they’ve already played outside for a while, and everyone is getting along, they can play video games.

It just might encourage your child to read. Believe it or not, Pokémon taught my son how to read. You may think I’m crazy, but those funky little critters really did. He came across the show, which led to the cards (so many cards!). Then, when his birthday came around, and we felt he was ready, we got him a Nintendo Switch with the original game. There was a bit of a learning curve at first as he asked for help navigating through how to use the buttons and all, but once he got the hang of it, he really got into it. If you’ve ever played, you know there are a lot of passages to read through and direct the game. After a few days, I caught him reading them proficiently out loud. Bewildered as to where the sudden skill came from (he was in the very early “sounding out words” stage of learning how to read), he said he wanted to play his game properly, so he practiced the words. The drive to play his video game literally inspired him to learn to read.

There’s so much strategy involved. I also love how video games challenge your way of thinking. Navigating a plumber through complicated worlds to rescue a princess, for instance, exercises massive problem-solving, strategy, and critical thinking skills. As does solving puzzles such as converting multicolored geometric shapes into ones that form a dissolving solid line.

It can build family bonds… Playing video games together as a family can also build bonds. My husband and I rocked our kids’ world when they first challenged us to a game of Mario Kart. In a no-holds-barred match I don’t think they’ll ever forget, we all laughed until we cried and left them genuinely shellshocked.

…especially between siblings. I’ve also caught my two snuggled up together as big bro helps little sis with a particularly tricky task, such as getting Bluey to move the table so Bingo can get the sticky gecko off the ceiling. Sure, there are times when squabbling occurs over whose turn it is to use the controller. But for the most part, I’ve found it to be positive reinforcement, excitement, and encouragement when they play alongside each other.

Just make sure to monitor what they play. I don’t set a timer or anything for how long they can play. I use judgment (and take advantage of the quiet time) to approximate folding a few loads of laundry or making a phone call to a customer. Maybe a little more time on the weekend or when they have to accompany me to work. I do, however, monitor what they are playing. I don’t let them play anything with bad words, graphic violence, or adult themes. That’s where I think the negatives start to outweigh the benefits, and they can begin to spiral into that dark hole.

So, there you have it — this Mama Mia’s argument for how video games can actually be beneficial for kids. If you’re looking for someone who doesn’t hate the players or the games, “It’s a me!”

Caitlyn Hawkins
Caitlyn is a happy-go-lucky wife and Mama who loves football, Icemen hockey, and fishing. A Jax local through and through, she has called the 904 'home' her entire life. But don't let that fool you! She and her little ginger family are avid world travelers. When they aren't on the go, this Osprey Alumni is helping folks sell and buy homes in our great town. She wanted to find a balance between being a working Mom in an ever-changing field and wanting to be present in her children’s everyday lives. This is how she came up with being what she calls a “stay at home(s) Mom”. She chronicles those experiences, along with various other home maintenance/design/repair tips learned along the way on her blog ClosingsAndCarSeats.com .

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