Wednesday, July 18, 2012

"But I am good at it on the Wii..."

I had an interesting observation today while playing with two of my children.  We decided to make some bow and arrows that we found on Pinterest from Craft, Interrupted.  We changed it up a bit but not much from her original directions.  Using blue plastic piping, PVC caps and some string we made the bow and arrows (which we had a lot of fun creating).  We headed outdoors to test out the new devices.  After two failed trials both of my children seemed super frustrated.  This made me a tad frustrated.  How did they expect to be good at something right away and especially archery.  I gave a little "it takes practice" pep talk.  Then my daughter states "but I am good at it on the Wii"! I continued to remind them that it required practice and they plodded on.  After many trials they were able to do it and they were extremely proud and quickly showed off their new talents to their older sisters.  But, I am sure that had I not encouraged them to continue they would have given up.

Later in the day this gave me something to think about.  Does video gaming, particularly active video games, influence children's abilities to learn "real" motor skills?  The Wii and the iPad are relatively easy to control with a very small learning curve.  You can have success with many games after very little practice.  Perhaps you do not have 100% success but you can improve rather quickly with practice.  

In real life this is not the case when it comes to developing motor skills.  Developing the skills necessary to hula hoop, juggle, ride a bicycle or use a bow and arrow require hours and hours of practice.  Do children get frustrated easily since they can do it on the Wii and not in real life?  Why bother trying only to fail or not progress quickly? 

My hope is that children realize that accomplishing the real motor skill is more satisfying and fun.  Unfortunately, this may not be the case.  Children spend less and less time outdoors.  Do they even have to time necessary to work on these motor skills?  In our house, the children have limits on their "electronic time" as we call it.  They average about one hour per day where they can choose to watch television, use their itouch, use the computer or play the Wii.  Based on statistics though, we are well below the average "electronic time" usage for children especially adolescents.  What about the upcoming generation of toddlers who are exposed to tablet devices at such a young age?  Will it influence their frustration levels with print books?  If a digital book can become animated with a touch of a finger, will children eventually dislike plain old print books?

I truly hope all the answers are "no" to my questions regarding the influence of electronic gaming on children.  Nothing beats the feelings of satisfaction when you learn to ride a bike, juggle some balls, read a book or shoot a bow and arrow.   

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