This article is a guest post by Dana Neuleitner.
Computer games are very popular with children and young people. Whether building cities, fighting against villains or diving into distant worlds together with friends – there are hardly any limits to your imagination. As parents, however, you are often in a quandary. On the one hand, they are aware of the potential that virtual worlds can offer their children. Because there are already numerous digital educational games available for the youngest children. On the other hand, many fear that their offspring will meet cybercriminals online, develop addictive behavior or be exposed to virtual violence that they cannot handle.
Studies by the Max Planck Institute for Human Development show that video games such as Super Mario 64 can increase spatial thinking, memory formation and fine motor skills, as well as strategic planning. The North Rhine-Westphalia Media Authority (LfM) also highlights positive learning effects in its “Best Practice Compass. Computer Games in the Classroom” also highlights positive learning effects. This includes, for example, the ability to create cognitive maps or to train algorithmic thinking. Children and young people tend to learn in a hidden way when playing computer games, for example by improving their hand-eye coordination or dexterity. However, the violence aspect that underlies many online games is also objected to here, as is the gender issue. Because often, similar to the advertising industry, stereotypes or certain ideas of beauty and strength are used. This is where the model project WERTE LEBEN – ONLINE of the JUUUPORT e.V. which, among other things, aims to dispel prejudices against female gamers. Young people also campaign there for more respect, tolerance and compassion on the Net.
Some initiatives and projects tie in here. The project “(Cyber-)Mobbing – Explained!” sensitizes students to the topic of bullying, for example, and the webinar on the topic of “Respectful in Online Games” is intended to train children and young people in dealing with gamer language. In online multiplayer games, individual team members must communicate with each other to exchange ideas about possible moves, for example. This can foster teamwork and tactical thinking. At the same time, there is concern that children and young people may also come into contact with insults and bullying through online exchanges.
Another issue many parents face is violent scenes in computer games that could potentially disturb children. With the rise of first-person shooter games, fears have been raised that such games could lead to copycat crimes. However, a study by researchers at the University of York showed that violence in digital games does not necessarily trigger aggressive behavior.
The positive learning effects of computer games can even be harnessed for teaching with gamification and inspire children in language lessons, for example. Because when learning is fun, it happens almost all by itself. However, to achieve this, schools would need to be properly equipped and in-service training would need to be provided to teachers.
If children and young people are carefully introduced to the subject and made familiar with possible dangers, digital games offer them a learning environment that can support them in many areas. To do this, it is helpful to study and inform oneself about the topic in order to create an optimal environment for the offspring and to always stay up to date so that potential dangers can be successfully managed.
About the author:
Dana Neuleitner is a student assistant at merz | medien + erziehung and studies media and communication at the University of Passau. Her areas of focus include media linguistics, cross-media and public communication.