Does your child spend more time on a screen than on a sports field?
Playing video games is easy, comfortable, and never gets rained out. Sports take time, practice, and effort. Kids may not see many ticks in the win column even after years of playing sports, but they can master Mario Kart in the afternoon.
Video games for kids are easily mastered. It's intentional on the part of game designers and ensures constant triggers to kids' brain reward center.
Studies tell us playing video games provides a rush of pleasure that activates kids’ mesolimbic dopamine pathway. They enter a flow state and lose the concept of time. This makes it hard for kids to stop playing even when a parent says it’s time for dinner.
“Positive rewards are the main reason people become addicted to things,” says Dr. Kimberly Young, an expert on the Internet and gaming. “When you play the game, you feel better about yourself.”
Conversely, with sports, there’s a steep learning curve. Kids must develop mechanisms to understand delayed rewards.
Falling prey to the pleasure of instant gratification is, unfortunately, hard-wired into our kids.
The brain’s prefrontal cortex develops until age 25. It's the final area of the brain to mature, and it’s required for impulse control and good judgment. Without a developed prefrontal cortex, kids have no braking mechanism when they experience pleasure. They will eat a box of cookies instead of one. They will watch Spongebob instead of going to bed. They will play video games until their computer explodes.
The hours kids devote to video games is time they won’t get back. It has little positive impact on their development and takes time away from relationship-building, hobbies, and sports.
Kids playing video games gain a false sense of accomplishment and confidence.
A girl who is unbeatable at WII tennis might feel she could dominate the actual court in a game of doubles. The reality is, she can’t even hold a racquet.
Sports are a healthy way to promote teamwork, competition, and a sense of purpose. Achieving goals in sports sets a child up to make good decisions in the future. Physical activity promotes well-being in kids’ minds and bodies.
Maybe your child isn’t inclined to play baseball, basketball, or soccer, in that case look out for non-traditional sport sign ups: kickball, ultimate frisbee, fencing, Parkour, geocaching.
Put those video games away. Pick an activity, grab your kids, and head over to the park. Use sports to balance screen time. It will set your kids on a course for a lifetime of winning seasons.
Also read: The Science Behind Carrots&Cake