When I was the president of an international private coeducational boarding school for teenagers with dyslexia and other kinds of learning disorders, I was frequently asked by parents to curtail their children's use of video games. I often wondered why they thought I could curtail the use of their children's video games when they themselves could not, but that is the subject of my next blog on effective parenting.
I found myself challenging parents' statements asserting that video games were bad. I disagree. I think the research on the link between video games and violence is weak at best. However, that is not the point of this blog either.
I smile when I find someone who enjoys video games. When I find someone who enjoys video games I know:
1. The person can sustain their attention for long periods of time;
2. The person can follow rules because a computer game is nothing but computer code and what can be more rule-bound than computer code;
3. The person can rapidly adapt to changing rules, even when those changes are not explicitly stated;
4. The person has frustration tolerance;
5. The person will work very hard to get to a new level, where the work just gets that much harder, and;
6. The person will endure this additional work and new challenge all for the very abstract reward of typing their initials next to a "New High Score" designation, i.e. they desire to achieve due to pride of accomplishment.
So I ask parents who complain of their video game enamored offspring, "Do you know you have a child who has a long attention span, can follow the rules even when they change without warning, are adaptable, have high frustration tolerance, have a good work ethic, want even greater challenges (and will work hard to get them), and are motivated by a sense of pride of accomplishment?"
After the parent blinks a few times, stammers a bit, and mutters something about "well, I never really looked at it that way before," they frequently recover enough to retort, "but if only they could show those characteristics in places besides video games." And that is the trick, is it not?
If parents knew as much about parenting as video game makers know about making video games, perhaps their children would be able to demonstrate their skills beyond the confines of the video game environment. The secret is that parents can learn more effective parenting skills. Fortunately, there is a lot of very good research on parenting skills, and this will be the subject of my next blog. Stay tuned, but while you wait, why not try out a Wii or Playstation 3 and see how many of the six characteristics noted above you possess?
Video games: A parent's best friend