According to our latest poll, a majority of readers believe that video games are primarily a negative influence on our sons. They are not alone. Video games have become a tremendously prevalent part of our society, and as parents, I think it's only natural to be concerned --and perhaps a bit suspicious -- of something that sucks up so much of our sons' time.
Besides, a slew of studies have suggested that our concerns are warranted. The latest research proclaims that 1 in 10 children are addicted to video games. Video games have been associated with everything from obesity to violent behavior. And let's face it: it's easy to denigrate anything that distracts your son from his chores and homework.
But the facts are not quite so conclusive. Like anything, video games have positive and negative effects. Here, a round-up of some of the positives:
- Video games improve problem solving and physical dexterity. According to the American Psychological Association, video games can improve cognitive and perceptual skills and foster scientific thinking. Also, one intriguing study found that laparoscopic surgeons who played video games were 27 percent faster at advanced surgical procedures and made 37 percent fewer errors compared to those who did not play video games.
- Video games may enhance eyesight. Israeli researchers found that teens who played violent video games (think Call to Duty 2) showed a 43% improvement, on average, in their ability to discern between very close shades of gray. Now, they are studying whether video game play may someday replace eye surgery for certain patients.
- Video games may make your sons better citizens. Far from playing alone, most kids play video games with other kids in the room and interact with others both through their game play and in real life. Also, certain games, such as Sim City, give kids a first-person taste of government.
- Video games expand worldview and enhance learning. Think about all the historic titles out there: Battlefield 1942. Gettysburg. Civilization. Then think about all the simulation titles: Roller Coaster Tycoon. John Deere American Farmer. It's impossible to play games like these and not learn anything.