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Study Says Online Gaming is Good

Eventually, social networking will eat our kids' brains.

Many parents may ask that question upon reading this article over on the San Francisco Chronicle. Apparently, a recent study - the Digital Youth Project - concluded those findings after a three-year run, that playing "gab on Facebook" or online games actually do more good than harm (read the two-page summary here). Many people may disagree, and retaliate by saying that technology basics should come from teachers and parents; socialization should be a part of schooling and general neighborhood exploration; what kids learn from sitting behind a monitor is that people can put on a false persona and be anyone they desire.

But the report, sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation, contradicts those general ideals. It claims that "children should be encouraged to use the technologies to gain a certain level of digital literacy." That is definitely true, but MySpace and Facebook isn’t the answer no matter what the report indicates. Mizuko Ito, the research scientist who led the study, theorizes that children who can’t access those community sites - AKA the popular online diversions - risk becoming outsiders and unable to function in the "Internet Age."

That’s a tall claim, but considering the amount of kids who access those sites on an hourly basis, the truth can be hard to swallow. MySpace and Facebook not only have become online journals, but means in keeping up with friends by way for sharing photos and leaving messages. "There is this generational gap in thinking about the value that social networking brings," Ito told the Chronicle.

Mizuko Ito and her group of researchers interviewed over 800 youth and young adults, and conducted over 5,000 hours of online observations. The result of this study shows that "social network and video-sharing sites, online games, and gadgets such as iPods and mobile phones are now fixtures of youth culture." As much as many parents hate to admit, the Internet Age has assimilated the youth; the socialization children learned by playing at the school playground or from group gatherings at the mall have shifted to digital mediums that require only a PC and a chair.

"To stay relevant in the 21st century, education institutions need to keep pace with the rapid changes introduced by the digital media," the report states. It also goes on to say that youth using new media often learn from their peers; they don’t learn from parents and teachers. The report states that adults can still influence kids tremendously by setting learning goals, especially those "adult hobbyists" who could come across as a more experienced peer, and could also be viewed as a positive role model.

As for online gaming, it’s interesting to see the study shine a positive light on an otherwise dreary subject. Although Jack Thompson is no longer stealing the spotlight (a big score for gamers) there’s still government officials, parent-organized groups and other studies that say games on a whole are just downright bad. But when virtual environments like Second Life and PlayStation Home come into play, it’s easy to see both sides of the case: sure, kids need to get out and mingle with real, physical people.

But in a day and age where the computer rules the world and the default forms of communication is by email or posting a blog online, perhaps it’s time for parents to hang up the reservations in the closet next to the graduation robe and embrace a digital world that will not stop evolving, that will take no prisoners. Schools need to step up and get into the groove so that their students are learning from educated professionals that can teach them that Sandra might actually be a boy behind that girly avatar.

Kevin started taking PCs apart in the 90s when Quake was on the way and his PC lacked the required components. Since then, he’s loved all things PC-related and cool gadgets ranging from the New Nintendo 3DS to Android tablets. He is currently a contributor at Digital Trends, writing about everything from computers to how-to content on Windows and Macs to reviews of the latest laptops from HP, Dell, Lenovo, and more. 

  • zodiacfml
    i agree. there are activities in the past that is not efficient if being used today. parents/adults should encourage children to technology and provide control when they abuse it.
    when they grow up, they will use what they have learned to get a good job.
  • eklipz330
    and the people eating dirt after days of WOW...say..

  • I love how people always say what the schools need to do, but offer no viable suggestions regarding how to implement them in the school system.

    Should we offer a Facebook class? Ok, what would this look like? You can't just let kids run wild on these sites, as no learning would occur. So what if we create assignments that have to be completed using collaboration among students using Facebook? Sounds good, but try putting a room full of teenagers on the internet and then keeping them on task. It's difficult at best and impossible at worst.

    Even if they do stay on Facebook, what happens when little Sarah meets her 'dream guy' online, who turns out to be a psycho stalker adult? Who gets the blame? The school/teacher. And when a group of students uses a school computer to gang up on a kid using cyber-bullying? Again, the school/teacher gets the blame.

    Give me a practical way to implement this type of thing and then I'll listen. Believe me, my ears are open. I want to do it.
  • Kami3k
    Lol they learn socialization skills? Guess they mean acting like retard and say "LOL I SO OWN j00!" Is social skills improving....

    Though this isn't a problem with just people who are online, it's really my entire generation and after. (I'm 20 btw) They act like idiots. Also technological skills? Ha, good one. Online gaming does that do that, PC gaming period does that. If you want to game on the PC you have to know the hardware, otherwise you will be spending 1000s more then you have to.
  • resonance451
    kami3k, how does knowledge of system requirements have anything to do with knowledge of social networks and internet etiquette?

    You guys are all postulating ridiculous notions. There's no need for a "social network class", and the creation of one would not mean the apocalypse. If anything, the sponsoring by more mainstream institutions and promotion of understanding should serve to better regulate social networks and keep kids safer, rather than stupid parents trying to keep 13 year old Tommy off of MySpace by turning off the monitor and thinking that the computer has been deactivated. Little Tommy will get back on the computer and go back on MySpace and has the chance of making dangerous decisions without talking to his parents about them because he knows he'll get hit with a complete lack of understanding which brings needless restrictions.

    Whether people like it or not, knowledge of computer basics is becoming critical, and computers are going to be a huge part of our life from here on out. It's going to be as important as knowing how to drive a car. Those who are illiterate are only hurting themselves. A better understanding and acceptance of all these things which are becoming popular anyways and are just a new form of communication will allow a cultural growth. Social networks are not the devil, just like KISS music wasn't hellspawn's attempt to take over the world. At least not violently.
  • Kami3k
    I'll just respond to your post saying read one once in your life. Headline is as follows "A recent study suggests that kids who play online games learn socialization and technological skills. Is school no longer good enough?"

    Notice technological skills? That means computers and the tech that runs them. Which isn't connect to facebook or other networking sites.

    Also they are talking about learning social skills while being in school, you know like talking to other people in real life. Talking to people online and in real life are two completely different skill sets.

    Also about teaching kids safety on the internet, like that boy or girl they are talking to could in fact be a psychopath. Though I personally think parents should do that, the huge amount of bad parents makes that the schools job unfortunately.

    One will only get you so far, the other one will make or destroy your life. And since you're too dense, or just read way too much into things, the one that really matters is real life.
  • ooo
    I think if some1 says Hey dude this game runs me like crap what can i do ... then the other people assit him / her saying dude by the last brand call ...YiaraYiara... with comes with this Yiara Yiara ..then the technological advice comes simple by the people with better information about something and any news spread faster then ever ... second ... i you just reading this comments and u have like 12 or even less age you begin to decern rapidly how older people behaves and when he/she talks with a grow up group people comes more easy to understand them... more information access=mayor grow up in knowledge because your social skills in not only increasing in the school, it is increasing in the net as well ...
    Your parents in their work can access you more easily just seeing you online connected to their network with a password ...
    Network improves everything even a future and better online school that allows you to assist a recorded class and then ask you online questions about what do you think about class today lesson ... so more time learning about others = improves ur knowledge no matter what.
    Orientation is a key factor = good websites talking about good sites where children can access safely...
  • waffle911
    Unfortunately, one thing that kids won't learn from using the internet
    is how to form grammatically correct sentences. The lack of critical proofreading on many "Tom's" articles and their comments is evidence enough of this.