This Is Why I Regret Buying My Kids An Xbox One S – Forbes

We’ve had an Xbox One S in my house for about a month and I’m not sure how I feel about it. I might regret buying it.

Our family has always been big on video games. Most of my writing and research focuses parenting and childrearing in the 21st century. I write about education, schools and family in an era of networked communication and always-on digital media.

My boys are nine- and eleven-years old and we’ve been playing video games as a family for a long time. Years ago, when I wrote my first post for Forbes, we were still using the Wii to play New Super Mario Bros. Back then, I had just written a book that analyzed classic video games from the perspective of archetypal psychology. I was concerned with the ways in which the metaphors of the game-world impacted how players make meaning out of their experiences in the life-world. The book was for grownups, but as I wrote more and more about the topic—and as my kids got older and started making autonomous gaming decisions—I became increasingly interested in kids’ experiences with digital play.


Photo by Jordan Shapiro

At this point, all the research around child development is pretty clear about the benefits of play. For example, it’s one of the primary ways in which kids develop executive function and self-regulation skills. There are so many studies that have connected play with agency, motivation, identity, critical thinking, confidence, etc. Kids are never just playing; they are always simultaneously reinforcing lifelong habits. And while there may be some differences between how life-world play shapes kids’ long-term behaviors and how game-world play does the same thing, there is still relatively little good research that addresses differences between the two. Therefore, at least for the time being, you can ignore most of the anti-digital-play rhetoric. It’s grounded in nostalgia for the good old days of stickball and sandlots more than it’s based on any good empirical research about child development.

Bottom line: digital play is a form of play. And most play is good for kids. A variety of different kinds of play—digital and non-digital—is even better.

Moreover, when parents and kids play together, magic happens. Because they’re not just playing together, they’re also talking together. And you’ve probably heard all about how vocabulary develops when kids converse with adults—and how literacy is directly related to the size of one’s vocabulary. When those conversations are contextualized around something kids are passionate about, like video games, the impact is substantial.

Wait, there’s more: when you’re playing games with your kids, they’re watching you. And not only do the kids learn from mirroring the behaviors their parents demonstrate, they also get a chance to practice making meaning out of their experiences in the game world under the mentorship of an experienced adult.


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