Gaming: Can it be used for learning?

I wouldn’t say that I’m a gaming expert by any means. However, I have been surrounded by the gaming world since I was younger. My older brother, now in his mid-twenties, plans time in his day to play Valorant, God of War, or The Last of Us (Part 1 and 2) either with his friends or solo. He even built a gaming station about a year ago to make this activity better.

Even though I was surrounded by it, gaming didn’t really appeal to me…unless it was Rock Band or Guitar Hero. I’m not even sure that these games are considered “gaming”, but I surely had a great time rocking out. I found the challenge of hitting each note and progressing through levels thrilling. There weren’t really any social aspects, but it was a game that brought a moment to bond with my brother. Additionally, I suppose a learning benefit from these games could be the improvement of hand-eye coordination, practice skills, and determination. Getting good at each song takes practice/determination and definitely involves strong hand-eye coordination, especially when one makes it to the hard/expert levels.

All that being said, gaming can be a fun activity, if performed in a healthy manner. The WHO has adopted gaming as part of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), noting it as a behavioral addiction (Kamenetz, 2018). The criteria for this “gaming disorder” includes “…someone with an inability to stop playing even though it interferes with other areas of one’s life, such as family relationships, school, work, and sleep. And, these problems would typically continue for at least one year” (Kamenetz, 2018). It seems that there is some controversy on whether gaming is a true addiction, nonetheless understanding how to partake in gaming, responsibly and educationally, is a good idea.

How can individuals foster safe and responsible use of online games or “connected play” for fun or for learning?

According to Patrick Efird, a curriculum game designer, children are more engaged in educational lessons when there is a gaming factor involved (Walker, 2019). There is both growth and perseverance that is developed through gaming. For instance, students may feel a sense of accomplishment when they reach a goal or learn from their mistakes (Walker, 2019). They may also feel more motivated to practice certain skills.

Therefore, online games are a solid option for educators to use in the classroom. Programs like Conjuguemos, Mavis Beacon, and more can be good tools for academic support. To ensure safety, educators need to be aware of the type of programs they are allowing their students to use. The programs that I previously listed do not provide any opportunity for risky behavior. Furthermore, using subscription games or programs that need memberships would be a good idea since students wouldn’t be able to access them outside of the classroom.

What are 3 key tips for parents or teachers when it comes to establishing and supporting kids’ safe and healthy online gaming habits?

Establishing healthy gaming habits can be a difficult task, especially when the game leaves a child wanting more. Here are 3 guidelines to promote safe gaming habits:

  1. Manage screen time. Setting a time limit for how many hours per day that your child can play is a good way to set gaming boundaries. If they are playing a game that doesn’t allow a definitive stopping point, setting a limit on how many matches they can play per day will be just as effective (Ucciferri, 2020).
  2. Turn off voice chat preferences. Many games have voice chat features that allow for players to connect and chat with each other while they are playing the game (Ucciferri, 2020). To prevent bullying/harassment, predators, or any other dangers, turning this feature off is necessary, especially for younger children. For most games, this option can be found in the game’s settings.
  3. Emphasize that school comes first. Setting a guideline that homework must be completed before playing any games will keep your child on task. Playing online/video games before doing schoolwork can make children feel tired and unmotivated, making it much harder to complete and the quality of the work much less.

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