Video games require intense focus, concentration, and attention. How can parents use their children’s involvement in video game play to improve attention outside of the game? If you look at attention as a set of skills, you may be able to help your child identify the way she focuses in her video game play and apply those skills to real-world activities.
This is particularly important for children with ADHD or attention problems who are characterized by the tendency to be easily distracted across many situations. Because many children with ADHD do not appear to be distracted during video game play, this is an opportunity to practice these skills effectively. Focusing effectively on tasks (and video games) requires three distinct skills:
- Task initiation, or the capacity to know what to pay attention to and where to get started.
- Sustained attention, or the capacity to keep one’s attention on the task at hand.
- Task persistence, or the capacity to maintain one’s effort in the face of distraction and possible frustration.
In no way does playing video games alone result in the alleviation of children’s ADHD symptoms. However, playing together with your child provides you with a teaching opportunity to help him gain an understanding about how his capacity to remain focused improves his attention, knowledge, and sense of accomplishment. When you play together you are another player, not a parent. As a result, your kids are more likely to talk, and think about their gameplay strategies. As a video game player, you will directly learn how focusing skills are used in the game, as well as gain an appreciation of what happens when you lose your focus.
Before you play together try to learn a little bit about the game. You can read our LearningWorks for Kids PlayBooks to understand how Focus is used in the game. Even better, ask your kids what they think are the key things that you need to know in order to beat the game. In all likelihood, their responses will require you to use the skill of Focus in the game, providing for an opportunity to use your child’s gameplay as a teaching tool.
Try these games to help your child improve his focusing skills:
- Torchlight: This game helps to improve task initiation, as players must take on various “quests” to complete throughout the course of the game. Quests give players something to do during the game, and should be sought out in order to advance in the game.
- Fruit Ninja: This game helps to improve sustained attention thanks to the constant need for players to keep their eyes peeled for fruit to slice. Various pieces of fruit enter the screen at sporadic times, so players need to stay focused in order to ensure that they don’t miss a slice.
- ‘Splosion Man: This game helps to improve task persistence mainly due to the difficult nature of advancing in the game. Players often have to backtrack through areas they previously visited, navigating the map in order to access an area previously unattainable. If they don’t remain focused on the task at hand, they may lose their place on the map, or get distracted by fighting enemies.