Video games have become a dominant industry, grossing more than motion pictures over the last few years and employing as much cutting-edge technology as the U.S. National Defense. In many ways, these games epitomize the high level of stimulation that is almost inescapable in our culture today. They have also served, along with television, to make indoor inactivity the preferred pastime of many young people. To make them more active and inclined to sports, you might want to buy them some nice Tennis Racquets.
Video games present kids with an artificial world where there’s lots of action but very little for them to actually do. This is true largely because that world has only two dimensions. The realms of taste, smell and feeling have also been removed. Two-dimensional interaction is something that we adults have grown accustomed to in this age of the computer and the Internet. But it is not well suited for developing children and young adults.
If we watch infants’ first little forays into the world, we can see how strong their need is to experience reality fully. They’re not satisfied with merely looking at an object. They will hold it, drop it, pick it back up and put it in their mouth. They explore their surroundings, then, using all of their senses. This kind of curiosity is innate in young people, and it serves as an impetus for them to confront and learn about their environment. It is also a method by which they get their minds and bodies working together.
This process of getting acquainted with themselves and their world can be promoted, as they get a little older, by activities that require the cooperation of body and mind: drawing and painting, bicycling, hiking, and all kinds of active games. A lot of the joy children find in these diversions comes from their discovery of their bodies’ balance and natural grace.
Then the allure of media like movies, television and video games calls out to so many of them – and much of this development stagnates. What’s worse, the scenarios that dominate many of the games, in particular, are hostile. Kids who play them are confronted with an unsafe world where violence is typically the only answer. Those who argue that it’s all fantasy anyway should consider that the armed forces utilize combat simulators – which hardly differ from many popular video games – to desensitize soldiers to the stark reality of shooting and killing real human beings.
Video games draw young people’s minds into a two-dimensional world where so few of their abilities are utilized, no real rewards or consequences exist, and the imagination is bombarded by often violent images that have no connection with the real world. We parents would do well to direct our children towards activities that develop coordination, balance, judgment and creativity.
This requires extra effort in today’s age, when electronic media permeate so many parts of our society, but the rewards outweigh the sacrifices. Children who reach adolescence with their senses sharp, minds and bodies aligned and imaginations well-exercised will have distinct advantages over those who have succumbed to a reality fore-fed to them by the TV or video screen.