The world of video gaming has found its way to a lot of parents’ bad books. From getting the blame for addiction, laziness, imitating violent behaviour, among other negative effects, we can all agree that these concerns are quite valid, however, there are two sides to every story right? Are there benefits for a child’s developmental growth in online gaming?

We continue part two of our gaming series, with Thulani Sishi, who works in various fields in the gaming sector as the team manager of Goliath Gaming and the Co-Founder of GameDock, as well as Tshiamo Setshwaelo, Co-founder of Social Coding SA, a skills development company that focuses on equipping rural communities with digital tools to help them navigate an increasingly internet-focused world.

Both Thulani and Tshiamo agree that there are more benefits to gaming than negative effects and encourage parents to take the time to learn and get involved in gaming, to help their children healthily navigate the space.

Here Are Five Developmental Benefits From Gaming For Children

  1. Gaming Improves Their Reading Capabilities 

According to research revealed by The National Literacy Trust in the UK, video games can give young people a route into reading and writing. Online games also have the potential to improve confidence in young people’s reading skills, help them immerse themselves into stories, support positive communication with family and friends, increase empathy and wellbeing, as well as help reluctant readers with literacy. 

Video games come with instructions that then force the gamer to read what is required of them to navigate the game. To support this, other studies have also indicated that children who generally struggle with reading, may become more comfortable reading text from the internet. 

2. It Encourages Problem-solving

Gaming Enthusiast, Thulani Cebekhulu mentioned in the previous post, that the structure of a typical game, includes a storyline, interaction with AI or other players, a target and ultimately solving a challenge. A report by the American Psychology Association found that the more adolescents play strategic video games, such as role-playing games, the more their problem-solving skills are enhanced. 

Thulani highlights research that has found that children who play video games, improve in flexible thinking, decision making, planning, and organising. “Although there’s no evidence to prove that ‘train-the-brain games’ can solve every day, real-life challenges, problem-solving is definitely one of the major benefits of gaming,” he says.

3. Teaches Programming Skills such as Coding

“In the work that we do, we’ve seen that when children can relate to something, they learn more. For example, a child is more likely to pick up a math skill when instructed to build a game that teaches maths, rather than them just building and playing a game, just for the sake of playing”, says Tshiamo. She also explains that when children build their own games, they learn logic and problem solving, which then feeds into careers such as engineering. 

“We’ve facilitated programmes with parents, where we bring them on to build a game with their kids. Through this, we’ve seen that when kids play with their parents, they develop an interest in building codes, apps, and games. Video games do help but some don’t encourage learning. I think parents need to be careful which games they give kids access to”, she advises. 

4. Encourages Social Connections

While it may look like kids are anti-social when they’ve shut that door for a gaming session, there is an interaction between them and the source on the other side of the screen. Whether your child is an introvert or extrovert, engaging in a gaming session simply forces them to open up and actively engage.

Some games require multi-players, and what this ultimately does, is open up the gamer to other people, as far as other parts of the world. Of course, this then needs stricter monitoring from the parent, but this then allows your child to be exposed to like-minded people, which then extends their social circles.

5. Instills Visual-spatial Skills

“In gaming, you are constantly receiving visual information to make decisions and communicate, whether it’s images, objects, subjects, or scenarios. Children can identify and distinguish between what they are visually taking in and relaying that information in a quick succession of the time. This has proven to be an immense benefit and provides a competitive advantage. In short, gaming enhances children’s ability to navigate and understand visual information at a faster and accurate rate, says Thulani. 

How Can Parents Get Involved? 

Thulani shares these tips;

  • Firstly, from a facilitating point of view, just like traditional sports, when parents understand what’s needed from an equipment point of view, they are in a good position to enable their child further growth and success, especially if they wish to pursue gaming as a career (the sooner the better). 
  • Secondly, you want to be able to give the right advice so your child can make better decisions in and outside the game (practices, processes, attitude, and behaviour).
  • Thirdly, being able to understand the world of gaming/esports and technology gives one a sense of security and puts one’s mind at ease. In my opinion, being able to put protocols and systems in place that do not affect a child’s upbringing, but further encourages them to take advantage of technology in this digital age, gives them a competitive advantage in life. We are in a world where information is slowly migrating and becoming decentralised and it is a skill to navigate and comprehend.
  • Last but not least, gaming provides you with the opportunity to spend more time with your child. Just because you’re not on the field or court side-lines doesn’t mean you can’t support their career or growth and share memories and moments with them. You can play with your child or watch their live streams if they are competing in an Esports tournament. 

Thulani expands more on the world of gaming and his personal experiences through a conversation he had with Olwethu, which you can find here.

Wrapping Up

Being open-minded when it comes to gaming, can prove to be more beneficial than harmful. In general societal terms, it is the child that must learn from their parent or guardian, but in this case, there’s a lot to learn from our little humans and if we as parents take a keen interest in gaming, this does not only improve their developmental growth but also provides an opportunity for spending quality time. 

Do lookout for the next blog post, as we unpack the downside to gaming.