Do You Believe Computer Games Can Help Your Child in School?

Are video games as big of a negative influence as some parents and adults believe they are, or can they actually help children learn? As a growing number of schools can attest, video games can have a constructive place in the classroom. Should more schools implement them?

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Digitizing the Classroom

Study after study shows that optimal learning relies heavily on keeping children engaged. In a world of iPods, smart phones and the Internet it seems that the best way to get children's attention is to make it digital.

That's exactly what schools have been doing for the past several years: Smart Boards and iPads, for instance, are becoming staples in classrooms across the United States.

It's also been found that computer games can be great learning tools. Over a decade ago, BBC News reported that teenagers learned more from audiovisual materials than from printed books.

Recent results from the use of 'ST (Spatial Temporal) Math' software are encouraging. The game is a lot more than what it initially appears to be: moving a virtual penguin through a series of obstacles. It is teaching kids math concepts, and quite successfully: a middle school in Las Vegas, for instance, has seen math test scores improve 14%!

Not All Bad

It's likely that we hear much more about the negative effects of video games on our children, but before we condemn them totally we need to realize that the 'ST Math' software is indicative of how beneficial computer games can be.

Playing computer games can help a child develop strong problem-solving, reasoning, multitasking and analytical skills. Visual-spatial skills and eye-hand coordination have been shown to improve as well. Video games also promote creativity and can increase a child's perseverance.

Early use of video games has been shown to help with literacy, too, by increasing letter recognition and letter sound association.

Too Much of a Good Thing

None of this is to say that your child should spend all of their time playing computer games. Used in an educational context, these games can have great benefits and improve skills that your child will use for the rest of his or her life. A real problem develops when computer games become an addiction.

There's also potential problems connected to over-exposing kids to the violent video games that seem to dominate the market. These types of games might lead to some children being more aggressive or antisocial. In fact, spending too much time playing computer games might lead to social isolation.

Finally, too much time spent playing video games can have the opposite effect of digital learning tools: they can adversely affect your child's schoolwork. The results of a 2006 study, which appeared in Pediatrics, found that playing video games on a school night led to 'below average' performance in school the next day.

Perhaps the best way to integrate computer games into your child's life is to monitor the use of recreational games and time spent on them, encourage the use of games that offer something to learn and implore your child's school to implement tools like 'ST Math'. Games in the classroom yield high scores where in the long run they matter most: not on the video screen but on your child's tests and quizzes.

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