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B.C. Children’s Hospital research debunks stereotypes around video gaming

New research out of B.C. Children’s Hospital may come as news to many parents.

It claims that video games are not addictive, and fighting over them may be doing more harm than good.

Researchers found that video games have become so prevalent, they’re a great way for kids to learn and gain validation for mastering a set of skills.

“Gaming can be a pro-social activity. There are entire games built around helping others,” says B.C. Children’s Hospital psychiatrist Dr. Tyler Black. “We are finding that games that have a balanced approach, morality and these types of things, can actually teach children lessons. Games are fantastic teachers in general.”

Black says there may also be visual-spatial benefits, and the new wave of active gaming, where children can exercise while gaming, could be used in children’s hospitals around the world.

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“We are using Nintendo Wiis to rehabilitate children with burn injuries,” he says. “These machines used to cost tens of thousands of dollars, and now you plug in a Wii and the child is moving.”

But balance is important as is parental involvement and supervision.

Most parents are fearful video games will inspire violence in their children.

Black says that reaction is the norm, but contrary to popular belief, the reality is video games aren’t turning kids violent.

He says the generation of video-gaming children is the most peaceful generation of children we have ever had.

“They are the children with the lowest levels of violence we have ever seen in Canada, the least amount of sexual activity and drug use.”

Black says parents often focus on gaming as the problem, when it is often the child’s way of coping with the real issue, such as anxiety or depression.

“They see it as an escape or something else to do,” he says.

Black says it is a parents’ job now to find out more about the games, and even participate and discuss what subliminal messaging the games may be conveying.

Parents who are looking for more information about children mental health, can find more information at Kelty Mental Health Resource Centre. It is a provincial resource centre that provides mental health and substance use information, resources, and peer support to children, youth and their families from across B.C.

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