Positive Uses of Computer Gaming for Children
Dr. Regan Mandryk is an associate professor with the Department of Computer Science at the University of Saskatchewan. She studies human-computer interaction and interaction techniques in the Human-Computer Interaction Lab at the U of S.
Her research interests include looking at cognitive and emotional wellness using computer games. Although the negative effects of computer and video games have been largely publicized by the media, Dr. Mandryk argues there are positive effects that are not publicized to the same extents as criticisms of games.
Dr. Mandryk says the average American household owns at least one dedicated game console, smart phone or PC. Rather than trying to fight the growing popularity of games, she proposes using games to make improved lifestyle choices, such as encouraging better decision making when it comes to exercise and healthy eating choices. A player could be rewarded for making healthy decisions within a game.
Dr. Mandryk and her team have conducted studies measuring cognitive wellness among children, seniors, children with Cerebral Palsy and children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. They found that games could be used to improve focus and concentration and were a form of education and therapy for special populations. When monitoring and measuring emotional wellness amongst participants, she discovered that games could have a variety of benefits among groups in senior’s centres and other institutional centres.
An exciting new project Dr. Mandryk is working on includes collaborating with Microsoft, owners of the video-chat program Skype, and Sesame Workshop. The project involves integrating games into video-chat sessions between preschool-aged children and grandparents. Dr. Mandryk is trying to determine if children and their grandparents can get to know each other through game interaction despite being in different geographical locations.