Keeping safe online 2: benefits of games

Identity experimentation

In 2007, Brunel University undertook research into teenagers engaging in gaming online, and discovered that they were introduced to a diversity that they would not otherwise discover, that they were able to hang out with other teenagers without physical danger, and to experiment with their identities in a way that is impossible offline.

Trying on different physical and psychological characteristics offers opportunities for creative decision-making. Once involved in something online, opportunities are presented to transfer to offline activities, such as reading, fitness or going to track down items that have been identified geographically.

Seize the opportunities to develop what children are interested in!

Time spent

In 2014, Oxford University’s Oxford Internet Institute undertook a study of approximately 5,000 10 to 15-year-olds and their game-playing habits. They identified that those who played for less than an hour a day were better adjusted than those who had never played as well as those who played for over three hours a day. The influence of video games was minimal when compared with more important factors, such as family function, material deprivation and school experience.

Journalist Pamela Whitby discovered that children who play games for an average of two hours per day have a wider circle of friends and do more physical activity and more homework than others, although those who spend more time than that demonstrate less fitness and more social isolation. If you are an avid gamer yourself, think about what your own behaviour says.

Dr Micah Mazurek from the University of Missouri undertook research into video games for children on the autism spectrum. She found that children with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorders) spent more time playing video games than typically developing children did, and that they were much more likely to develop problematic or addictive patterns of video game play. However, there is also evidence among such children of an increased development of social skills, although research is required to see whether these translate outside the game environment.

User interactions

Artificial intelligence (AI) is getting better all the time, but human beings are still better able to react and change tactics, communicate with each other and form communities, teams and friendships – as well as being formidable opponents.

Global friendships lead to opportunities to understand different cultures, possibly developing deep or long-term friendships. Care must be taken to ensure that this is offered within a safe online environment. Playing inside the home is often seen as safer than playing out in the streets in contemporary culture!

The activities on Guardians of Ancora have been extensively tested, and user interactions will be limited initially, and comprehensively moderated once available, but do seek opportunities to spend time on media activities together. Spending time together online offers opportunities to assess the morals and values of the material being looked at, and with Guardians of Ancora an opportunity to develop your faith formation and biblical literacy! Try discussing the plot, how your child feels about what’s happening, about the choices offered to them and about the offline (‘real-world’) consequences of wrong and illegal actions.

Dr Bex Lewis

Dr Bex Lewis is the Director of social media consultancy Digital Fingerprint and the author of Raising Children in a Digital Age: Enjoying the Best, Avoiding the Worst (Lion Hudson, 2014), where you can find more information. Passionate about helping people engage with the digital world in a positive way and trained as a mass communications historian, Dr Lewis is Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University, with a particular interest in digital culture, and how this affects the third sector, especially faith organisations, voluntary organisations and government behavioural campaigns.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Send this to a friend