Are games helpful in active learning and studying for school-age children? The answer is quite positive. Yet the idea does not seem to be widely shared in China. Despite credible evidence suggesting the potential positive effects that games could have on children, reserved Chinese parents do not seem to be fully convinced by these arguments. In early 2018, Chinese legislators also shared some of these beliefs and called for tougher restrictions on video games by treating it like combating drugs.
It is not a pleasant thing to see that such bias and misunderstanding exists in the country, especially from within the People’s Congress, the country’s top-decision making platform. Conservative parents against video and Internet games carried out their self-fulfilling arguments: Games will take away their children’s precious time to study. Facing tough pressure on their way path to university, these kids cannot take any risks that might jeopardize their chances to succeed academically. Some parents further cite that the potential promotion of violence and sexual content in some games are vulgar, non-constructive, and inappropriate for children.
These are merely the tip of the iceberg, and as for parents, their biased opinions on gaming are much more than what it appears to be on social media or from daily life. To further study the existing misinformation on the impact of games, The Chinese Youth Research Center conducted and drafted a report that tries to explain the matter to the general public. The study interviewed over 3,000 school-age children across six cities, in order to find out the prejudices that parents have against games, and what exactly the reality is on these issues.
The research reports found several observations that may surprise some readers. While many parents believe that younger kids may be more likely to become addicted to computer games, the findings suggest otherwise: Among people who are new to the Internet, younger children view the internet more negatively than high school students. This implies that the younger a child is when using the Internet, the less likely that individual would suffer from any forms of addiction, be it on social media or gaming. The research also found that there is no correlation between one’s academic achievement and playing computer games. Other factors, such as parents’ education level or family income, might have more impact on one’s academic grades than computer games would.
One other concern that Chinese parents have about video games, is the possibility that their children might be spending money in the virtual world. But the report revealed that 79.7% of students did not spend a single dollar on video games (and surely, that includes me. Geniuses at Steam, Sorry! I’m just too broke for that life). This is surely a key piece of information for gaming companies to realize: They can’t really profit from kids, simply because they don’t have any money to spend for themselves.
However, these studies certainly do not suggest that games have absolutely no negative impact on children. Stories told of kids with huge addiction issues are real. And obviously, if one started to skip classes to play games, his grades would have a definite impact. Yet these struggles alone may not be caused by games, but rather from parenting strategies, a child’s personal interests, or the ability to have self-control.
With China being one of the largest countries for E-sports, professional gamers are no longer just random kids who ‘happened to play games well’. Professional gamers are just like the NBA players, who need to go through numerous and practices in order to become more competitive. And they could also become role models for younger children, not because of their reputation or fame, but because of their diligence, intelligence, and dedication to their careers.
When it comes to pro-gamers, I do have some personal stories to share, as I happened to overhear the tragic story of a pro-league player who had to abandon his dream of playing as a professional E-sports competitor due to his parents’ strong objections.
He was talented in the League of Legends, and at the age of 15, his specialty in gaming exceeds what most kids out there. At one point, he was one of the best players in the North American continent. And it is far from surprising that professional teams are offering him a contract that pays decently well.
He could have gone big and became a pro-player that might be able to change the game and became a true legend. But this did not happen, simply because of his parents, who refuse to let him play. The drama did not end there: In addition to grounding their kid, the parents feel like it is the poisonous environment in Vancouver that hurt his kid and made him a crazy gaming addict. They decide to leave everything behind and move to Toronto. Not only has been lost his opportunity to play as a professional he also lost all his peers in Vancouver.
And what happens now? Instead of becoming a well-behaved individual who grows up to be a successful doctor, lawyer, or accountant in the future, we are now having a university drop-out, who, possibly all his life, would never appreciate his parents for what they did.
Unfortunately, for parents who are unable to keep up with the latest trend and parenting knowledge, their understanding of the Internet and the gaming industry remains to be limited. This will not help their kids succeed in the future, but rather, could end up with their children being left out of the new phase of competition in the tech-era: It would be way too late if your kid only gets to touch a computer at 21.
It is sad to see that some parents are not willing to give up their reserved and biased opinion on games and the Internet. As we covered before, Yang Yongxin and his gruesome electroshock therapies are still available as a treatment in China. It will take time for parents to catch up with their beliefs, and that parenting strategies like these are not good ways to nurture children into a growing digital world.