School Principals Speak Out Against Video Game Claims

Although gaming industry insiders have long touted many benefits of video games, the New Zealand Secondary Principals’ Association has recently stepped forward to refute their claims. Contrary to the recent spate of reports and findings that gaming by children actually improves their educational outcomes, the association is now warning parents, who make up a very large chunk of video-game players themselves, that excessive gaming causes “more harm than good to educational development.”

Earlier this year, the Digital New Zealand 2012 report by the Queensland’s Bond University and commissioned the video game publishers industry group the Interactive Gaming and Entertainment Association found that 79% of parents of kids under 18 reported spending time playing video and computer games, with over 90% of those saying that they frequently play with their children. Those parents were also more likely to believe that playing video games improved their kids’ understanding and increased their enthusiasm for subjects such as mathematics, science, and technology, among others.

According to the IGEA director Mark Goodacre, the parents, who themselves came of age during the digital revolution, and interact with technology in more immediate ways in their everyday life, have a much more progressive view on digital gaming than their own parents.

But Secondary Principals’ Association president Patrick Walsh said the negatives of video games often outweighed positives. Schools had noticed some students who played a lot of video games had limited vocabulary and concentration problems.

Walsh is concerned that parents tend to overestimate the positive impact of gaming on their kids, and cast doubt on the assertion that they have any educational benefit at all. Instead of being seduced by the labels on the box promising improved academic outcomes, parents should be wary and limit gaming time until they can be sure that their kids grades aren’t being adversely effected.

John Clark, who is a father of two young sons from Auckland, explained that those were the concerns he had when he decided to limit his kids’ gaming to the weekends, only allowing them to play educational games like Mathletics during the school week. Although he says he occasionally plays with Hunter, 5 and the 9-year-old MacAllister, seeing the siren song effect these games have on them all makes him occasionally wish that he could trash the family’s Xbox.

While he agreed there were educational benefits to the video games his children played, Mr Clark said he was careful to limit the time they spent in front of the machines.

“It can be difficult, because often if you’ve got other things to do, computer games are great at keeping everyone quiet.