Ok, it's a pointless reference to a terrible song, but it gets the point across.
Whether you're young or old, you have probably heard or said something similar to one of the following:
"Why don't you go outside, it's a beatutiful day!"
"You're going to go blind from staring at that screen."
I'm sure for a lot of you it brings back some memory. What I'm talking about of course is the endless hours today's youth spends playing video games, watching movies, or doing other technology related activities out of direct sunlight and the issue many parents have with it.
Lately I have been seeing an increasing number of articles relating to violence or even suicides as a result of game playing followed by blanket statements about the corruption of our youth en mass by the video game industry.
No matter how many studies prove that youth violence is actually declining, that violence in music, movies and games will not cause violent acts (but can act as a catalyst for some already troubled individuals) parents and politicians have taken a much more agressive stance on the topic recently. Many parents have the impression that their children are wasting away infront of video games, their brains are becomming jello, and they will turn into the typical overweight 30 year old, addicted to Jolt Cola and living in the basement that is often depicted on television if they allow this behaviour to continue. While that can be true in some cases it is more often the fact that parents are completely clueless about the video games their kids are playing that allows them to become harmful.
Most kids aren't playing games because they're bored, or because they're lazy or anti-social, they play games because they really do enjoy them. Parents belief that children choose to play games instead of doing many other things because they are "addicted" is a huge misconception. In order for parents to really connect with a kid who is seemingly "addicted" to their games, they have to become interested in, and understand the games themselves. For example, I can tell you what kind of person someone is based on the type of games they play, I could tell you how someone thinks after watching how they play those games, and the choices they make within each game.
It is extremely frustrating for kids when their parents shun every game the moment it is turned on simply due to the fact that it is just "a game" and not "real life". More often than not there are more challenges, puzzles and goals to reach for in a game than you will find over the course of a day in the park. There are games that are mindless, and spending hours upon hours playing them would be about as useful as spending those hours watching TV however the majority of game players would not be playing them for those exact reasons. It's the challenge, and the ability to set and reach goals that makes a game fun.
There are of course exceptions, people who are actually addicted or allowing their games to consume them, but consider this. If your son was really into sports, and spent every minute of his free time in the park practicing or playing with his friends would you tell him he should be doing something else? or complain that you think he is addicted to playing with his friends? of course not. Why then should parents make their children feel guilty for playing video games?. You may not understand why your children find video games fun, but that does not mean they should automatically treated as something harmful.
The times are changing, and whether people like it or not we are becoming significantly more reliant on technology for day to day life and for entertainment. So next time you see your child spending a sunny day inside with a friend playing a game, instead of complaining or sighing and walking away why don't you have a seat and try to understand exactly what it is about the game that your kid enjoys, before you decide whether or not it is a waste of time. You might even end up enjoying yourself.