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Keep Video Games in Their Place


Grandma once told me that during her lifetime she had seen the Wright Brothers fly the first airplane and had watched the first men walk on the moon! As amazing as that is, the modern scientific advances we witness today are no less extraordinary. One can only imagine what our children and great-grandchildren will experience!

The Challenge of Using Video Games Wisely

Technology is here to stay, and its influence is felt in every aspect of our lives. It is the rare job or career path that does not require at least basic computer skills as part of its prerequisite. Each homeschooling family must face the challenge of using technology wisely as we prepare young minds for decades into the future. Particularly important is our response to the growing appeal of computer games, for both educational and recreational purposes.

What are some guidelines we can use as we make decisions about computer games?

Computer games can help children build a variety of important skills and inspire otherwise hesitant learners.

Computer games hone fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination, increase a child’s ability to solve complex problems, develop reading and math skills, and reinforce the following of instructions. They teach quick decision making, teamwork, responding to challenges, and overcoming obstacles. Computer games also encourage players to strategize and work toward goals and, in the process, develop concentration and perseverance.

Games like Age of Empires and SimCity teach players how to use resources wisely and think logistically. Minecraft, a favorite with my grandchildren and their parents, inspires creativity and can be used to teach a variety of subjects. Computer games are colorful and fun, engaging children in subjects they might otherwise want to avoid. Games can be a great first introduction into computers and the online world, giving children the necessary confidence to interact and compete in the marketplace in the future.

Gaming also has some possible dangers parents need to consider.

Computer game content is varied, and age level labels might not be accurate for the standards in your home. Games may also introduce aggressive behavior and vulgar language to your children, and those children with a propensity toward anger may be incited. A biblical worldview is often absent. Games may send messages that contradict important truths you want to instill in your children. We have to remember that ideas are never neutral—they always have a worldview and even innocent, fun games can leave a post-modern imprint.

Video games can be addictive for certain personality types. Some studies show that gamers have an increase in dopamine, a chemical that serves as the neurotransmitter in the brain stimulating reward-motivated behavior. Unlike other addictions, however, those who struggle in this area cannot practically avoid all interaction with computers. They will have to learn to properly respond to their temptations to overuse. Time management can become a problem (the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours of combined screen time daily for children), as can an increased desire for isolation if gaming is not done alongside friends or family members.

The prophet Jeremiah called out a warning to the children of Israel:

Thus says the Lord“Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. Jeremiah 6:16).

In this passage, God was not calling his people to go back to doing things the “old-fashioned way” or to observe some sort of man-made tradition, but rather, he was exhorting them to obey and follow him in all things they did. As they faced the temptation toward the idolatry of the times in which they lived, they were commanded to serve only the one true God.

This is the counsel the Lord would have for us as well, as we prepare our children for faithful service in the next generation. Methods and means may change, along with the technology to accomplish them, but God’s truth does not. Let’s pursue wisdom and embrace those changes as we train our children to cherish the good and righteous things from the ancient paths!

Karen Campbell, who holds a BS in Human Relations and Secondary Education from Judson University, is a 28-year veteran of homeschooling, the mom of six children, grandmother of 14, and has been married to her husband, Clay, for 38 years. Karen loves baking and cooking for the whole gang when they are home and is actively involved in her local Toastmasters Club. In fact, citing Lucy Ricardo as her inspiration, she once won the District Humorous Speaking Contest for her tale of the homeschooling mom who mummified a chicken! They live on the Illinois prairie where Karen blogs and podcasts about relationship homeschooling at www.thatmom.com.

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