Video Games and Socialization

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Photo by Oakley Originals via Flickr
Photo by Oakley Originals via Flickr

It used to drive me crazy to see a group of boys clustered around a screen.

Before my boys got iPods (used, and purchased with their own money), I used to judge the boys who clustered in corners and played video games on their screens and devices at their older brothers’ basketball games. There they’d be, in public, completely oblivious to the noise and people around them. Instead of saying hi, they looked down, their noses seemingly glued to the screens.

Those kids, I thought, are in trouble. They don’t know how to socialize. 

Then my kids started joining the cluster. And when my kids did get iPods, they often became the center of the cluster. That’s when I was forced to confront my previous judgments.

I’d assumed that video games interfere with socialization. But once I pulled back — once I really started observing the boys — I realized that they were socializing via video games. They weren’t alone, in individual corners, mindlessly pressing buttons on their devices. They were most often clustered together like puppies, sharing their info and knowledge of the games. They banded together in common interests. (Oh, you like Minecraft? Me too! Let me show you what I made…) Often, the boys played together side-by-side, joining one another in a virtual world.

Their seemingly oblivion to the outside world — to their brothers’ games and the parents in the bleachers — was really intense concentration. When I looked carefully, I realized that the hours they spent socializing in game didn’t seem to negatively affect their ability to socialize outside the game either. Every single boy was still completely capable of saying hello, of carrying on a conversation and of playing with other kids in the real world.

It turns out that careful researchers are challenging the idea of video games as antisocial as well. Increasingly, kids will tell you that social interaction is a major reason they play video games.

Of course, that doesn’t stop adults from worrying. If you’re still worried about the impact of video games on your boys’ social skills,  take the 5 question quiz at the end of Who Says Video Games Are Antisocial?

Do you think video games are harming boys’ ability to socialize?

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