Game Time by Bob Sprankle

A new study came out this past week, examining the amount of video game addiction in children 8-18. I've read many articles that either back up or poke holes in the study , and a few reminders to compare this against what the Pew Internet study found earlier this year. But sure... for arguments sake, let's accept the study's finding: 1 out of ten kids could in fact have a video game addiction. I guess you could become addicted to just about anything, so why not video games as well?

One article that I thought put this all into perspective, reminds us who ultimately can help with the situation: parents. Henry Jenkins points out in his paper, "Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century," that the Digital Divide is about more than having access to technology:

"[Our goal is to] shift the focus of the conversation about the digital divide from questions of technological access to those of opportunities to participate and to develop the cultural competencies and social skills needed for full involvement."

The divide exists also between students that have proper guidance in using technology compared to those who are left to explore and find their way on their own. As with anything, parent/teacher involvement will help keep technology a safe, positive experience.

At our school, we’ve recently adopted the “5-2-1-0” program which reminds students to keep screen time to a maximum of 2 hrs. If nothing else, this keeps the conversation alive between students and teachers about finding a healthy balance with computer/TVand other activities.

Conversation is key. I remember seeing Marc Prensky years ago making his argument for including video games in learning. For the "doubters" he said that at the very least, talk to your students about what games they play. Showing that you share this interest will get kids talking, and from there, you can make an easy connection to their learning.

It’s the simplest thing, but it actually works. I am not a gamer by nature. I’ve had to “force” myself to learn about gaming, in order to talk with the “natives” (Prensky’s term is “Digital Natives”). It’s paid off plenty.

If I think about the students in my school who might be on video games "a bit too much", I think about 2 boys in particular. Both students had plenty of behavioral issues when I first met them in my classes. In their own ways, they would disrupt the lessons as much as they could. Then I found out that they were both gamers. Big gamers. That’s all it took. I talked to them about what games they played, shared what games I played, and the bridge was built. No more behavioral problems and in fact, they’ve both become leaders in their classes. I call upon their gaming knowledge often as I talk about concepts I’m teaching, and they take great pride in the fact that they’re the fastest typers due to their IM-ing skills associated with their gaming.

Can gaming be addictive? Can it be a negative experience? I’m sure. But Prensky’s advice of being a part of the conversation has the power to make a world of difference in your students’ use of games. Don't start the conversations with students with the worry or "diagnosis" of addiction. Start with authentic interest in what they're doing with their games. Ask them to show them to you. Ask them the rules. Ask them why they play them. Build that bridge first, and they'll be listening by the time you get to helping them find balance.