When my child plays with others online, is he “socializing”?

Video games have become, with certainty, the most widespread form of entertainment among children and adolescents around the world. Beyond the approach of adults, who can understand them as narrative gadgets, as vehicles for entertainment, as generators of a culture in which to immerse themselves or as nostalgic artifacts, younger users have welcomed them as a logical evolution, adapted to the times, of the usual toys.

However, perhaps because of the contamination of adults and the facilities that technology puts at their disposal, since the Internet has become a tool that many have had at home practically since they remember, even among children, games begin to be seen as forms of communication. communication, socialization and expression. Are there implicit risks in it? Is it normal to understand video games like that?

Studies on the effects of video games have been in place since the first scandals because of the violent content of some games since the nineties (from the fallacies relating to the Columbine massacre , and since then the tabloids have practically no truce ). Above all, the effects of addiction have been studied and how violence affects the youngest , although without reaching any clear conclusion. On the other hand, the positive effects of video games are more than contrasted, both from the medical and educational point of view . However, being a relatively young medium, it is too early to draw conclusions about its medium-term effects, of one kind or another.

The effects of video games on how they socialize their users is a more recent field of study, but the tendency of current games to allow the connection between players also means that our approach to them has changed (in the Playstation 2 generation – it only does something more than a decade-and earlier was little less than a luxury, now is an absolute necessity). Generations abound until recently reserved to the internáuticos submundos like the MMORPG: games like World of Warcraft or Everquest, of massive participation online and that they accept multiple approaches on the part of the players, from the traditional one of those who look for action and adventure until those who use them as a tool to socialize. In fact, massively multiplayer games aimed at children and young people, such as Animal Jam, Dragon Fable , Runescape , Club Penguin or Wizard 101 .

But is this real socialization or just a substitute for tangible relationships on a day-to-day basis? The expert Mark D. Griffith organized at the University of Nottingham a study that yielded the following conclusions: 144 university students were given a questionnaire to determine the frequency of videogames and what degree of maladjustment they had to situations social. The results have shades of certain complexity, but the conclusions said that the players who dedicated more hours to their hobby experienced greater social anxiety, that is to say that video games hinder the acquisition of social skills.

Of course, the conclusions are not always so negative. Any theorist about games (not just video games) knows that they help, in children, to build roles, attitudes and abilities that are then applied in real life. It is sensible to think, as stated in the IV Congress of Cybersociety , that “videogames are the gateway for children in new information technologies and, therefore, constitute constituent elements for socialization in that world. They create a collective symbolic space where new forms of socialization, education and also transmission of knowledge and moral values ​​are given “. That is to say, that all the activities that are carried out in a video game have repercussions in the real socialization and within the games themselves.

When a child or adolescent speaks with other players, he interacts with them through chats, through fictitious avatars and carrying out activities comparable to those that he will later have to perform in his normal life (such as consumption or commerce). Thus, he is doing what has always been done in games: taking on roles. Affirmed the Video Game Observatory of the European University of Madrid”Video games awaken skills such as the ability to excel, visual skill and above all teamwork, very good for training, especially for the younger ones.” That is, we go beyond a mere educational content, since after a survey of 2,876 people, we reached conclusions such as “video games can have a social component, since 41% of respondents said they made friends through from them”.

The conclusions are diverse and sometimes even contradictory, but we believe that we must retain the essential: relationships and socialization in videogames have their dangers and obstacles, no less than in the same way as in real life. When our children chat, compete and collaborate with other players they do it knowing that there are real people on the other side. After all, it is what we have and have done all our lives with games.

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