Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Digital Hospitality

I've been having a debate with myself over whether or not digital entertainment is conducive to developing relationships.  At first glance it would seem obvious that face to face interactions would be much more beneficial. However, when it comes to siblings I can see my kids watching each other play video games, helping each other out and being relatively agreeable (not to mention quiet). Until computer time is over and they have to experience imagination play.  They are really good at role playing, dramatizations and teamwork.  Unfortunately it only lasts for a few moments before they explode into an intense battle.  Someone wouldn't follow the rules, someone ignored someone else or hit them or past a harsh judgement that resulted in name calling and bullying.  They had time to create a royal empire but their enjoyment is short lived.
So my question is: Is it worth it?  As a parent do I promote free play when it always ends in chaos?  Again, the obvious answer is yes.  They need to develop creativity, social skills and competence in dealing with reality, but the reality is they have violent tendencies and no control over their aggression. Wouldn't it be better to just sit around a screen, quietly and politely helping each other?
Last night is a prime example.  We had friends over and when told to go play they ended up watching each other play video games.  It was great for the moms, we got to talk and relax without any interference.  But, we wanted the kids to interact so we turned off the screens.  Not more than five minutes later the boys were screaming murder, the girls were running crying to their rooms, and I was wiping up a bloody nose.  At times like these I find it hard to convince myself that non-digital play is more healthy.
Some advice please?  And I don't want to hear any arguments in support of video games.


Joan said...

Hi Halli, I only have my teaching experience and the experience of my family to go on, so take me with a grain of salt.
Have you tried structured play, like give them a goal to reach in their play, like build a ramp so they can ride their bikes off it, or lego building contest and you judge at the end, or make a play, practice and present it or science experiments like corn starch and water. As the nieces and nephews have gotten older, the parents have become more lenient with the screen time because they want the kids to want to be at home.
Even when its cold out, the kids get sent outside.
Things will get better, lady! much love. joanie

Al-truist said...

Halli, I play a lot of board games and used to play a lot of video games. I think board games teach many skills you can't learn from video games because video games don't involve issues like interpretations of the rules (the program is an inflexible arbiter), implementation of game mechanics (calculations of points/outcomes are all automated), and (depending on the game) provide little opportunity to negotiate deals or agreements. Video games frequently have hacks/cheats that allow you to sidestep any of the games challenges. Lastly, my experiences playing board games (and learning complex rules) have proved invaluable to learning parliamentary procedure, reading and understanding corporate/society bylaws, legislation, and last but not least, the various policies and regulations we have to follow at work (Canada Revenue Agency). In deference to video games I will say that Minecraft seems a lot like playing with virtual Lego (creative skills?), first person shooter game probably improve hand-eye co-ordination, and turn-based video games can probably home your problem solving or analytical skills. However it is my opinion even MMRPGs (Massively-Multiplayer Role Playing Games) provide very superficial social interaction that could be easily spoofed by a robot or AI program. The banal level of human-human interaction over computer networks means that a Turing tests administered via instant messaging has becoming a trivial problem.

Halli Lilburn said...

Thank you for the detailed analysis. I agree with you on many points. What about puzzle solving games? What is your opinion on them? Everyone seems to agree that they enhance memory skills and brain function, but I'm not so sure. Also can you explain to me what a Turing test is?

Halli Lilburn said...

I like the idea of giving them a goal to reach. Sometimes I assume they are to old for me to get involved and I shouldn't think that way. I can influence without interfering. I can help to prevent fights before they begin instead of just cleaning up after it's too late.
P.S. cornstarch experiments - check.