Improving Your Child’s Time Management with Video Games

The following case study is an example of the ways that video games can exercise Time Management skills. The story itself is a variation of one or more patients I have worked with during my years in private practice. Names, places, and other identifying details have been altered or removed.

Brandon is an 11 year-old fifth grader whose father drives him to school every morning. Brandon’s father had noticed that their commute is usually a great time to talk to Brandon about his interests and activities. One particular morning, Brandon’s father asked him why he was so excited the previous evening, to which Brandon replied that it was because he finally beat the fifth level of Dungeon Defenders.

Brandon’s father had noticed that he’d been playing on the computer for about 45 minutes after finishing his homework and asked, “Why was Dungeons and Dragons so hard?”

Brandon couldn’t hold back his excitement when he began talking about the game, stating, “It’s a really hard game, because you get only two minutes to set up your defenses against the ogres. I’ve been playing it for about a week, and I keep running out of time for my barricades that were set up to prevent the ogres from taking the crystals. I needed at least 20 barricades in order to beat them, but I couldn’t build them fast enough. So then, instead of using 20 barricades, I built 4 attack towers very quickly and still had time enough to build another 6 barricades. Once I did this, I was able to protect the crystals and beat that level.”

Without necessarily thinking about it, Brandon was using Time Management skills of prioritization, having an appropriate sense of urgency, meeting deadlines, and acting efficiently. Having a goal to beat the game facilitated a problem solving strategy where improved time management skills were crucial to success.

These game-based Time Management skills can easily be applied to many other areas of a child’s world, but are likely to be most helpful if parents help their children recognize when and how to apply these skills.  For example, Time Management improves efficiency in tasks such as test taking, where one wants to complete the easier items quickly and then attack the more difficult ones.

We encourage parents to engage children in these types of discussions about the skills they use in games and help them think about applying those skills to the real world. Car commutes are often great times to have these types of discussions with your children. They are a captive audience in the car, and you can even choose to let them play with a hand-held video game or use a cell phone app, with the hope that they will talk with you about what they are doing, think about what they might be learning from the game, and maybe even teach you how to play it at a later time.

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