The games children play

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    IT is seldom that the matter of video games being played by today’s Filipino kids becomes a topic for congressional discussion. But that is exactly what happened when officials of the National Council for Children’s Television (NCCT) appeared as resource persons at a House of Representatives committee hearing.

    The issue of internet content — which includes video games and apps — is most relevant these days because of the COVID-19. The pandemic has prompted the government to impose strict quarantine and public health and safety protocols that restricted children and old people to their homes. Many of these children have only their cellphones, tablets and computers as connection to the outside world, and so much so that internet usage surged.

    ‘… we cannot do much about it but just to remind ourselves that the TV set was once called “the idiot box.”’

    A worried National Council for Children’s Television (NCCT) Executive Director Daisy Atienza has expressed alarm over the kind of video games children play nowadays, in a virtual hearing last week of the House Committee on Creative Industry and Performing Arts. She mentioned such games as Talking Angela, Grand Theft Auto (GTA) V, Mobile Legends and Roblox as dangerously being downloaded and played by children from 5 to 10 years old, when these may best be allowed to be perused by teenagers and adults.

    Atienza told the representatives that while the most commonly played video games of Grades 1 to 3 are casual games, it is concerning that children as young as six years old are already knowledgeable about teen or adult-oriented games such as Roblox, Grand Theft Auto, and Mobile Legends. She also said that the “most common video games played” by children are Paw Patrol, Gatcha, Candy Crush, Angry Birds, My Talking Angela, Fishdom, Plants vs. Zombies, Stick Man Legacy, Wordscapes, My Talking Ben, and Super Mario Bros. 3.

    In her presentation to the committee, Atienza cited two research papers that were done in 2015 and 2018. These scientific studies reveal that: “As Grades 1 to 3 learners are engaged more in video gaming, their performance in accomplishing their tasks and their contextual behaviors decline.” Television, too, has the same effect on children, as the studies showed that as these pupils are “exposed to more television content, the more their ability to maintain prosocial behavior in class decreases.”

    Atienza also noted that “role-playing games are the most popular types of games for Grades 4 to 6, often battle games, which can be played online and interactively with chat rooms that allow for conversations with actual players.”

    Scientific research on the impact of video and internet games on children is still thin, and the congressional hearing only pointed out the fact that our institutions — the government, schools, legislature and family — have still a lot of work to do in this respect.

    About Atienza’s other observation on our TV programs, also available freely to Filipino children, that they “contain heavy themes on violence, death, sex, extramarital affairs, drugs and revenge,” we cannot do much about it but just to remind ourselves that the TV set was once called “the idiot box.”

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