University Study Shows Benefits of Teenage Gamers

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Apparently videogames don’t rot your brain – they actually make you a better citizen.

Despite how much the gaming medium has matured over the years, there’s still a rather unfortunate stigma attached to the hobby. Countless parents see games as an egregious waste of time, if not an explicit danger to impressionable children and teenagers. Kathy Sanford, an education professor at the University of Victoria, begs to differ. Sanford led a research project that followed a group of teenagers over five years of life as gamers, and she found that spending hours and hours in virtual worlds can actually help teens learn to better navigate the challenges of reality.

Some of the points that Sanford cites are common sense to experienced gamers, but her results may help to explain modern gaming to those with an outside perspective. Among the educational aspects of videogames are constant moral choices (which led to higher civic engagement and understanding of critical decisions like voting) and leadership opportunities in online games where the unique strengths of different players need to mesh in order to succeed. Sanford also noted that schools should change their strategies if they want to engage these generations of “digital learners.” Today’s gaming teens are very good at learning from immediate feedback loops, so the education system’s more drawn-out process of traditional grading may not be stimulating students optimally.

Sanford says that it’s important to try to understand this emerging way of thinking, even if parents and teachers don’t fully understand it. Videogames can help teens learn some skills, but now more than ever, that education needs to be reinforced with context. “It’s kind of scary for adults,” Sanford says, “because we don’t really know what’s going on … So we have to talk to our kids about what they are doing in an interested in genuine way. Some of the characters are problematic to me, there is a lot of sexism, but we need to talk to kids about them, not just ban them.”

Source: The Globe and Mail

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