How Super Mario Brothers may actually help your child.
When I was a kid, the coolest house on the block was the one that had a Nintendo system. When it was too cold to play outside, all the neighborhood kids would gather in someone’s living room and take turns trying to beat Super Mario Brothers. I was hopeless at it; I don’t think I ever made it past the second or third level. But that was irrelevant; Nintendo afternoons were about more than just conquering the castle and saving Princess Peach from Bowser. They were about having fun and making friends.
Video games often get a bad rap. They have been blamed for everything from childhood obesity to juvenile crime. But video games can actually be beneficial to childhood development.
- Reinforce educational concepts There are numerous games available now that incorporate math and reading concepts to reinforce academics learned in school.
- Video games are governed by rules, which create a reward and punishment system that can be used to help teach ethics and values Research has shown that students who play games that encourage pro-social behaviors are more likely to display similar behaviors, such as helpfulness and affection for others, in everyday life than students who play neutral or violent games.
- Develop hand-eye coordination and motor skills Studies of laparoscopic surgeons show that surgeons who played video games requiring spatial skills and hand dexterity performed better on drills, and completed the task faster, than those who don’t play video games. A lot of medical programs are now utilizing video games as a form of physiotherapy to help injured patients regain motor skills and coordination.
- Help improve attention Video games are inherently engrossing; they require players to focus and pay attention to detail. The fast pace and changing scene can improve visual tracking and attending skills.
- Teach problem solving and cognitive skills (memory, reasoning) Video games are adaptively challenging. In order to progress to the next level, the player must overcome a series of obstacles. Each level presents slightly more difficult tasks, which requires the player to stretch his abilities and attempt to find novel solutions to the problem at hand. It takes more than one trial to master a level and move on, and repeatedly attempting a task builds a memory base of actions and their consequences from which future decisions can be evaluated before being implemented.
- Develop strategy and decision making skills If you stand still too long, the video game will either time out or something bad will come along to end your session. This motivation encourages players to make quick decisions and the consequences of those decisions influence the choices they make next time, developing strategizing skills.
- Boost visual acuity and spatial perception Ample evidence indicates that there is a close connection between spatial attention and activity in the parietal lobe of the brain (the part of the brain responsible for sensation, perception, and coordination of sensory input to create a representation of the world around us). Video games requiring players to deal with a three dimensional object from a variety of positions and orientations can help improve spatial skills. Experienced gamers have better than average abilities to track items in a field of distractors, quickly locate a briefly appearing target, and efficiently process continuous streams of information.
- Enhance social skills Many video games are designed to accommodate multiple players. This allows children to work on social skills such as sharing, taking turns, and teamwork. It also provides a shared interest for children to talk about. And for autistic children in particular video games provide a way to engage with others without requiring sustained eye contact or abundant conversation.
So next time you need to entertain your child, put the Baby Einstein back on the shelf and grab a V-tech game instead. You’ll boost brain power and life skills while combating boredom.