Concerns Regarding Television and Video Games
A couple of weeks ago I attended an evening presentation by Dr. Stuart Shanker – a Canadian expert on Self-Regulation. He discussed his concerns about children who watch too much television and play too many video games. In summary, both television and video games are dysregulating. He stated that television shows create “attentional capture” – it transfixes the child. The fast moving images, bright colours and loud noises tap into the child’s hyper vigilant area of the brain. Boys are more vulnerable to attentional capture than girls. Even after the television show is over, the child’s brain remains in a hyper-aroused state. His quote: “T.V. is like the electronic version of white sugar.”
As for video games, they work by creating dopamine in the brain, but the dopamine effect runs out. When one experiences “dopamine-fatigue”, the length of time that one plays the video game needs to be ramped up or the intensity of the video game needs to be increased. What does this brain scientist do in his house with his two young children, ages 7 and 10 years? He got rid of the T.V. and has never had video games. Now this may seem too drastic for some families, thus the take-home message is “less is more”. Recent research is now coming out with scientific proof that practicing Mindfulness relaxation and breathing increases the grey matter in the higher thinking areas of the brain and actually decreases grey matter in the Amygdala – the hyper-vigilant, alarm centre of the brain ( psychiatry journal article on brain changes). Having a child’s alarm centre of the brain “turned-on”, with high levels of Cortisol (the stress hormone) running through the body, as he/she plays video games, is fostering the development of a child who’s in a constant state of alert, needing constant stimulation such as the buzzing of video games.
What’s the Alternative?
The best way to wean a child is to find a distraction or a replacement, and what could be better than providing the opportunity to still play exciting games, only this time, the games are board games, card games, and strategy games. Furthermore, instead of playing 0n-line with some strangers, these games are played in a living room with family members or friends. The December holidays create the perfect opportunity to buy some of the fantastic games, that are now available, and the time to play them.
Top Ten Games That Make Great Stocking Stuffers!
- Bananagrams – a combination between Boggle and Scrabble, players 2-8, ages 7+, www.bananagrams.com
- 7 ATE 9 – Players add, or subtract, 1,2, or 3 to the number on the top card on the pile to determine if they have a card that can be played next. 2-4 players, ages 8+, 5-10 minutes per game.
- Yahtzee – dice game, score the most points by rolling 5 dice to make certain combinations, ages 7+, players 2-8
- Pick-Up Sticks – release a bundle of sticks into a pile and try to remove one without disturbing the others, points for different colours, ages 5+, players 2-8
- The Headlines Game – make up a 4 word headline based on 4 letters drawn randomly each turn and a randomly drawn category. Judge each others headlines.
- Quiddler – the challenge is to change your hand of cards with pictures of letters, into everyday words. Points for words but a few simple words can be just as good as one long difficult word, ages 8+
- Uno - Card game with some similarities to Crazy Eights. At each turn, a player may play a card from their hand that matches either the color or rank (or both) of the top exposed card, or play a wild or wild draw four. Ages 6+
- Professor Noggins learn and discover card games – www.professornoggin.com – players take turns asking each other questions from the cards and getting ahead by answering correctly, ages 7+, 2-8 players, many categories to choose from to suit all interests: science, nature, geography, history, sports etc. These games have won a lot of awards.
- Ruckus - 2-4 players, ages 6+, accumulating sets is the aim of the game…it’s holding onto them that’s the trick! With players matching and stealing sets faster than you can say “Ruckus,” fortunes change quickly. Until the final card is played, it’s anybody’s game!
- Tantrix – www.tantrix.com This visual-spatial strategy game from New Zealand is great because it has different variations for different ages. The main objective is to try to create the longest loop with your chosen colour using your hexagonal tiles. Different colours for different abilities. (If you live in on the North Shore of Vancouver, many of these games are available at these great local stores: Nognz, 32 Books, BC Playthings and Kidsbooks, otherwise, they are all available on the internet.)