Video games can make teens better citizens, according to Kathy Sanford, an education professor at the University of Victoria, (British Columbia, Canada) She comes to this conclusion after a five year research project that followed a group of teens between the ages of 13-17 years old. Sanford sat down with The Globe and Mail earlier this week to talk about her findings before presenting them at a UVic conference of humanities and social sciences.
When asked how video games prepare teens to be good, active citizens, Sanford said that she was surprised how children who play video games learn:
"What we found was that what they were learning was a whole lot deeper and more profound than we had imagined, or that you can see from watching them," Sanford said. "They are doing a lot of problem solving and strategizing. They are learning collaboration and leadership skills. But the most profound thing that got me really thinking about their civic engagement is that they are actively making ethical and moral decisions all the time. They are trying out roles through the characters in the stories. If they act badly, if they choose to be evil, they see the significant results of each of the decisions they make."
Sanford went on to say that educators and researchers need to look at elements of video gaming that can be used to improve education like feedback loops that allow them to learn from mistakes and make corrections to succeed. She also says that parents who didn't understand that there actually are benefits to video games are now less resistant to the idea of letting their children play games as long as it is balanced with "connecting with nature" too.
Besides learning ethical decision making from games, Sanford says that teens learn how to formulate strategies to win by themselves and in teams, and how to be a leader.
Finally Sanford says that parents and educators can make the most of teens growing up immersed in technology and entertainment like games by talking to kids about what they are doing in an interested and genuine way. In that way they can learn what the positive and negative effects of these activities are and get involved more - or at the very least understand better why kids playing games for hours on end.
You can read the full interview here.
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