Spotlight on Digital Media and Learning posted an article about the benefits of parents playing video games with their daughters (girls exhibited lower rates of depression, anxiety, and aggression). I suspect the findings would be similar if researchers substituted video games with some other enjoyable father-daughter activity (researchers speculated that dads were playing, not moms), but any article that normalizes video game activity is a pleasant antidote to the usual hue and cry.
Interesting, though, that boys did not benefit from video game-playing with their parents so much. Authors Sarah Coyne and Laura Padilla-Walker commented on the gender differences, pointing out how few moms said they played video games. Would it make a difference for boys if their moms were playing?
(This is where I out myself.) My son and I have been playing Lego Universe, a massive multi-player online game, that has given us a rich, shared narrative, not just during in-game activity, but offline conversation as well. A lot of conversation. And when games are social like Lego Universe (both in-game or in forums), those conversations blend seamlessly with every important theme that parenting covers. Just like reading together, or storytelling, it pulls topics in close and connects us to anything and everything important.
Our conversations aren't only about content, however. The opportunities to expand digital literacy skills are just like those offered by any good video game: creating, strategizing, counting, problem-solving, researching, reading, writing, socializing, building (so satisfying, that sound of digital Lego bricks clicking together).
I have a hunch that my involvement sparked my son's interest in building and creating in-game, and that made him curious about programming. The jump to learn Scratch (one of our 2010 DML Competition winners) was a natural one, and suddenly at 9 years old he knows more about how to build, make, and do stuff online than most adults.
We should encourage our kids to tinker and build, offline and online. That means learning alongside them, pulling narratives with us and using such enthusiastic engagement to talk about tools and skills, and how to be life-long makers and thinkers.
Countdown to the 2010 DML Competition Showcase features Where Are They Now? updates on the 2008, 2009, and 2010 winners. The 2010 DML Competition winners will showcase their projects at the Designing Learning Futures DML Conference on March 4, 2011 in Long Beach, California.
Visit our DML Countdown page to view more updates from featured projects.