Parents, you shouldn’t be scared your kids are playing more video games now

Parents, you shouldn’t be scared your kids are playing more video games now

What gamers are talking about, boiled down, in 3:25 minutes.

What’s being boiled down today?

The New York Times published an piece about the perceived negative effects of increasing screen time among children during the pandemic. But what about the benefits?

Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate

Credit: Children's Miracle Network Hospitals

What’s the fuss?

According to the front page article, increased screen time from kids during the COVID-19 pandemic have brought about concerns for some parents such as increasing despondency and addiction.

The situation

The beginning of the article follows a family in Boulder, Colorado with a focus on James, a 14 year-old boy. Amidst being within the confines of the COVID-19 pandemic, James spends his free time on his Xbox and phone instead of being outside like he did normally pre-pandemic. His parents emphasize their uneasiness about “losing their son” and “failing as a father”.

With COVID-19 raging for almost a year now, the use of technology certainly has increased for children and adults alike. Children specifically must grapple with the transition of being face-to-face in person to being face-to-face behind a screen. According to scientists, this is leading children down “an increasingly slippery path into an all-consuming digital life” and prolonged exposure will make immersion in an offline world more difficult.

Dr. Keith Humphreys, a professor of psychology at Stanford University, likens this heightened device usage to smoking and drinking at a bar — meeting with friends may find it harder to quit smoking due to social reinforcement. Further sentiment came from Dr. Jenny Radesky, pediatrician at the University of Michigan, who likened screen time as a “pleasure cocoon” to avoid uncomfortable moments.

In turn, parents are reportedly struggling with what options to present their kids. Limit screen time? Give them a puzzle? Make their kids learn to knit? There seems to be no right answer. Luckily, there’s another side to this argument that has been in contention since the 80's.

Boiling it down

What are you going to do when you’re married and stressed? Tell your wife that you need to play Xbox?

This quote from the article arguably emphasizes the outlook of gaming from a parental point of view. First things first — there is no shame, at all, that comes with being a gamer. With 2.8 billion of us around the world, 38% of them aged 18 to 34 in the US, and 41% of them being female, it wouldn’t be surprising if James’ wife plays Xbox with him. This issue is not specific to minors like the article suggest, but for every age.

To give the article credit, you certainly can game too much which could lead to unhealthy addiction. Gamers should balance their passion with other activities such as exercise. However, at the end of the day, video games have helped the world, young and old, cope with the lockdown which the article seems to gloss over.

We are social animals. When we aren’t allowed to go outside and interact with each other in person, meeting virtually behind a screen is an extremely viable alternative — for kids more so. When you can remotely interact with each other in more engaging ways such as playing a video game together, the experience could be a better replacement for lost time with friends that can never be gotten back. Time and time again, video games have been proven to reduce stress and improve mental health, very relevant afflictions in the pandemic world.

Parents — the next time you’re binge watching your favorite show for hours on end, take a moment to reflect how doing so makes you feel. Has your mood changed for the better? How engaged are you? Then go check on your kid that’s playing Xbox in his room. Is he/she laughing with friends? Are they engaged in conversation? Do they feel better about themselves?

We all have our different ways of coping in this temporarily isolated world. We’re all in this together.

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