How gaming skills could actually improve life skills for kids
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When I was a kid in the 80s, everything changed when we could finally play Super Mario Brothers at home. No more waiting for our favorite games at the local arcade. We had unlimited plays, unlimited chances—unlimited quarters.
Meanwhile, our parents weren’t so thrilled about us sitting in front of the TV, playing games. You’d think that since we grew up with these luxuries, we’d be a little more relaxed when it comes to our own children’s gaming. However, parents will be parents.
And I get it: It doesn’t seem like there’s a whole lot going on when you’re watching a kid play video games. But new and ongoing studies prove that gaming can improve important life skills , such as “superior sensorimotor decision-making skills” and enhanced brain activity, according to a recent study in 2022 at Georgia State University.
So next time you see your kid playing games, try to picture how these gaming skills can also help them in the real world. Then, talk together about a few ways to make those in-game lessons a part of in-life lessons, too.
Eye-hand coordination. That’s the skill that helps kids ride bikes or grab a plate before it slips off the dinner table. Games that require quick reaction time to the commands on the screen could help to develop these quick reflexes. Think Guitar Hero, Beat Saber or Geometry Dash. And studies show that gamers can pick up sensorimotor skills faster than non-gamers, and gaming can even help surgeons hone their skills.
Financial literacy. Many games these days have “in game” currency, like Fortnite with vbucks and Roblox with Robux. Players can purchase this currency with real-world money, or in some games, it could be something they earn inside the game itself. Ask your kids about the kind of money decisions they’re making in the game. For example, do they regret a purchase they made through the in-game currency, and what ways can they solve the problem? Some games have real-world solutions to the problem, such as selling the item back for a lower amount or trying to trade it for something else. All of this can help kids learn financial literacy, even if it is non-traditional.
Communication and teamwork. Many role-playing games like Warcraft can require teamwork with other players to accomplish a goal or mission. Practicing teamwork in a low-pressure situation like a video game could help kids learn more about their teamwork style, what works and what doesn’t. Games like Among Us, which requires players to use their communication skills to figure out who the imposter is, could help improve these skills. Finally, talking about the game with friends and writing about these experiences can improve literacy and communication skills, according to a study by the National Literacy Trust. That’s worth noting when you’re listening to your kid talk at length and in great detail about the games they’re playing. Talk together about putting their gaming experiences in writing, either on paper, or if it’s age-appropriate, online by producing short videos for social media.
Coding and development. Games like Minecraft take the life skills for teens a step further by introducing the ability to modify the game itself through coding. Then, consider how the current unemployment rate is near zero for those with gaming development and design skills, according to a Tech Crunch article. And, jobs requiring coding skills currently pay on average $22,000 more per year than jobs that don’t. Is your kid also interested in coding? Maybe there’s a class online or at a local university that they could take to nurture the interest outside of the game, too.
Grit. As kids play video games, they can fail a level repeatedly, learning something from each failure. It’s the intense competition that can inspire persistence, one study suggests. Once they achieve victory and finally beat that level, their sense of pride and accomplishment can also level up. Just ask a teen who has just completed an entire game. They are so excited to tell you all about it. This determination to complete the task at hand could be a huge boost to their self-confidence and could help teach them that never giving up can pay off. Talking about those wins in the game—and how that experience can translate into never giving up on something in the real world—could help them feel a similar sense of accomplishment as they complete difficult tasks at work and at home.
Next time you think your kid is just wasting time playing a video game, consider some of these basic life skills and conversations that could happen along the way as they learn to play. While some games can teach specific skills, like those listed above, most can teach some of the broader life skills, too. Playing a variety of game types will help your child have a broad range of skills they can take into adulthood with confidence. And you can keep your quarters.
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