Well, yes, there are a lot of bad games out there, just as there are a lot of bad books out there. And there are some good games that aren’t appropriate for young kids. To Kill a Mockingbird is my favorite book of all time, but I don’t read it with my 7 year old.
The more important question, it seems to me, is to look at what makes games good, and how we can help children learn to choose good games and play them well.
Good parenting and good teaching don’t simply mean turning kids loose in a media jungle. Wise parents and good teachers need to become educated about games and engage with their children. They need to help their children choose appropriate games.
Playing games with children is one of the best ways to do that, and what parents wouldn’t want to do things with their kids?
At the very least, talking with children about games—what works and what doesn’t, what is interesting about the games, what are they learning, what are the strategies—is an important part of helping kids play games thoughtfully and reflectively. Reflection is an important part of the learning that can happen in games.
Yes, we really do need computer games. They aren’t just something that would be “nice to have” because they “make learning more fun.”
Computers are tools that let us make games and simulations in which players can do things that are too expensive, too complicated, or too dangerous to in the real world. In that sense, good games can be more authentic than school by offering more realistic and more meaningful ways of thinking about problems that matter in the world—the kind of problems that young people need to be able to solve if they are going to find good jobs and express themselves in an increasingly technological world.
Yes, people can become addicted to anything that they like. Kids need a balance in the things they do: reading books, doing arts and crafts, watching TV and movies, playing sports, hiking in the woods, and sitting around talking with friends about nothing in particular. But kids also need a chance to use the technologies that are shaping the world they live in, and computer games are one way to do that.
Part of our job as adults is to help children find a good balance, and sometimes that means saying “no”. If someone is doing anything—playing computer games, reading books, playing sports, whatever—to the point where it interferes with the ability to maintain healthy relationships or function in school or work, then there is a problem, and it needs to be addressed.
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