On one hand, game systems are both ubiquitous and convenient. With the flick of a switch, kids can be transported to a fantasy world where they beat the bad guys, uncover treasurers, and rack up points. They are the kings and queens of their domains.
On the other hand, each minute (let’s be real — hour) a child spends playing games is time taken away from reading, physical play, and creating.
The Parenting Dilemma
As a parent of a neuro-atypical child who needs to burn up energy through physical play, to develop critical comprehension skills through reading, and to just be free to create, you have to determine if the benefits of video game time outweigh the risks.
Luckily, experts agree that video games aren’t as bad as our society thinks they are. For example, the video game “world” may allow children with ADHD to finally feel successful, notes Dr. Jim Poole, creator of the Fast-Braiin program.
Three Reasons To Give Video Games A Chance
1. Games are fast paced.
Part of the challenge for kids with ADHD is that their brains are zooming at a mile a minute. So are video games. Kids don’t have to wait for the plot to develop or try to figure out the point. The action starts immediately and doesn’t stop until the game is over.
Skills boost: While many people disparage rapid pacing, it helps kids with ADHD stay focused and tunes up both the fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination required to keep up.
2. There are endless do-overs.
When your kiddo bombs on a test or embarrasses himself in front of a friend, starting over is difficult and painful. However, going back to the beginning of a video game or failing to beat a level doesn’t carry the same weight.
Kids learn they can try again and again as many times as they need to get it right. No one’s judging them and no one else’s emotions are involved. Video games may be the one place where starting over doesn’t automatically equate to failure.
Caution: Of course, many children get frustrated when they can’t beat their game. Parents should constantly remind their children that the purpose of games is to have fun, Dr. Jim says. If your child becomes negatively invested in a video game, it’s probably time to put them away for a while, he suggests. In our home, we have a rule that the minute you start yelling at the game, it’s time to go ride bikes.
3. Practice makes perfect.
A child with ADHD can try to write a sentence, organize her room, or sit still until she’s blue in the face and still never achieve her goal. No matter how much practice she puts in, she may never quite get it. However, after just a few attempts, she may easily conquer a game level. In video games, the more she practices, the better she’ll become until she’s perfect.
Positive: This feeling of accomplishment is not only a self-esteem booster, it also reinforces to the child the benefits of persistence.
It’s Okay To Say Yes!
Video games aren’t meant to be baby sitters and they’re no substitution for one-on-one bonding with your child, but they also aren’t the enemy.
Action plan: Establish some ground rules for video game play and then let yourself off the hook for allowing both of you to enjoy the relief video games can bring.