The home video game industry is now over 30 years old. In that time, computer technology has improved at a geometric rate. A high speed elevator now has more computing power than the Apollo spacecraft that landed on the moon.
The promise of computers and video games as teachers was clearly recognized in the 1980s when there was a nationwide push to get computers into the classrooms. In the years that have followed, researchers found that educational software and games can indeed have several very positive effects on children’s academic skill. Over the same period, video games also moved into children’s homes.
Video games are natural teachers. Children find them highly motivating; by virtue of their interactive nature, children are actively engaged with them; they provide repeated practice; and they include rewards for skillful play. These facts make it likely that video games could have large effects, some of which are intended by game designers, and some of which may not be intended. Video games have been shown to teach children healthy skills for the self-care of asthma and diabetes, and have been successful at imparting the attitudes, skills, and behaviors that they were designed to teach.
There have even been studies with adults showing that experience with video games is related to better surgical skills. Research also suggests that people can learn iconic, spatial, memory power developing skills, learning skills and visual attention skills from video games. Given the fact that video games are able to have several positive effects, it should come as no surprise that they also can have negative effects. The research to date suggests that parents should be most concerned about two things: the amount of time that children play, and the content of the games that they play.