Like most parents I am deeply concerned by the amount of time Master A spends playing on computer games. His latest obsession is Lego City, which, given the chance, he would spend hours playing on his Xbox.
The Xbox is his go-to form of entertainment. When he has any downtime, instead of running outside to kick a football around or shoot a few hoops, he grabs the controller, switches on the console, and immerses himself in the world of computer graphics.
He’s tried to explain the aim of the game, sitting me down beside him talking me through the challenges, but it baffles me. I am a child of Pong. Enough said.
My worry is that he becomes so absorbed in the game, so engrossed, that he “disappears”. I can walk into the room and he wouldn’t even know that I was there. I’ll ask him if he wants a drink, something to eat, but he ignores me. It’s not that he’s rude, he’s not there. He’s off scampering around in a world that is inside the TV or the computer.
He loses all sense of time, sense of who he is, and the art of communication. To snap him out of his nothingness, I often resort to shouting. Eventually, like someone coming out of a trance, he looks at me blankly, trying to work out where he is, what he is doing. And, trying to figure out who the hell the strange woman is yelling at him for no particular reason.
I vow that I’ll cut back on the time he spends playing on these games. That is until the next time I’m time-poor, trying to juggle the washing, with cooking an evening meal, writing a column et al. While I’m spinning plates it’s simply easier to turn a blind eye to Master A’s computer catnip instead of adding yet another thing, such as getting him to practice his clarinet, read a chapter of Rise Of The Rebels or going over his weekly spellings, to my mountainous to-do list.
But now I have a get out of free jail card courtesy of new research that suggests that instead of hindering children, playing computer games may stand them in good stead later in life.
Gaming can help young people develop key skills such as communication and resourcefulness, according to a study by Glasgow University academic Matt Barr. The lecturer in Information Studies says his findings suggest that modern video games can encourage players to think critically, improve communication and solve problems, the types of qualities that are prized by employers.
Who am I to argue with an academic? Play on.
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