Healthy alternatives to video games

Video games are in almost every household these days, and often in places where there are no children.

Video games are in almost every household these days, and often in places where there are no children.

Children, tweens, teens and adults all spend time on computers, hand held-devices and game systems like Xbox.

Every age has the capacity to learn something from the games they play, particularly children, who also spend the least amount of time on them, due to a shorter attention span.

Since these electronics are poised on taking over the world, there has been a lot of research and time invested in them.

With games increasing in violence and imagination, as well as time spent playing these games rising; both parents and scientists want to know what impact this has on their children.

Douglas A. Gentile is a developmental psychologist and research scientist who is an expert on the effects of mass media on children, adolescents and adults.

Gentile wrote an article, The effects of video games on children: what parents need to know, and it was published in June 2004 in Pediatrics for Parents.

In this article Gentile states that there are two things parents should be aware of: the amount of time the child is playing and the content of the game. He also says in his article that, “Playing a violent game for hours every day could decrease school performance, increase aggressive behaviours, and improve visual attention skills.”

Gentile’s suggests parents play an important role in their child’s success.

Parents who limited game play and used video game ratings to control content saw that their children did better in school.

Video games may have a few positive affects as well.

Studies have shown that adult surgeons who practise on video games tend to become better at their practice.

Gentile’s research suggests adults and children can learn iconic, spatial and visual attention skills from video games. They also provide repeated practice and rewards for good play.

If you are concerned about your child’s gaming tendencies, try enticing them to a more energy burning activity.

Be creative with your children by adding new twists to old favourites.

If it’s cold outside, try playing interactive games together, like simple card games or board games like Trouble, Twister, Snakes and Ladders.

These games will stimulate their minds, memory, and it will remind them that the real world is more fun.

During the summer there should be no reason for a child to be inside playing video games. There are soccer, baseball and other sports for children of all ages.

Living in Central Alberta provides a variety of outdoor activities like trail rides at Heritage Ranch or Canyon Ski Area, which also offers week long day camps for children between eight and 14 years old.

The Town of Innisfail, located 25 minutes south of Red Deer, has the Discovery Wildlife Park. This is a great place for children to see wild animals from across the globe, and it also has the convenience of being more accessible than the Calgary Zoo, as well as more hands on.

Lacombe hosts a corn maze from July to October with extra activities to keep children entertained all day.

If travelling is not an option, every community has a local playground, or an empty spot to play an old fashioned game of catch.

Remember that no matter how busy you may be, there should always be time to interact and play with your child.

This will help foster a better relationship and better communication between you and your child.

Positive Parenting appears every week in LIFE. This week’s column was written by Jesseca Johanson with Family Services of Central Alberta. Johanson can be reached by calling 403-343-6400 or