SPECIAL REPORT: Impact of video games on youth

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SPRINGDALE, Ark. (KNWA) — During the summer, kids have much more free time than they do when school is in session. The decades-old question is whether too much time in front of a screen is bad for children. In our evolved technologically-inclined society, certain career paths require a background in gaming.

Zoe Allen is a 9-year-old Fayetteville resident who’s being homeschooled, but her lessons are geared toward coding. She’s learning JavaScript, which can be found in many of the digital platforms humans use every day, including phones and web pages.

“You can make video games, you can make websites, you can make companies online…things like that,” Allen said.

Allen’s parents said they set limits on what their kids see online and make sure to carve out time for outdoor play, but they encourage their children to soak in the vast information at our fingertips. She plays PC and tablet games, and she and her family said they think the skills she’s learning through coding could lead to a profitable career.

“I’ll make a video game or something like that, and I think it’s gonna be really fun,” Allen said. “I’ll feel very accomplished, and I’m just having a great time doing this.”

Allen’s parents take a more-positive view of what hours of screen time can mean for a child’s health. Ever since gaming first became popular, parents have worried about their kids spending too much time playing them. In a Twitter poll, 57% of respondents said playing video games for hours a day during the summer is bad for children.

“We’re built to be active, so if we’re too sedentary, then the other things come along with it, and so you get isolation,” said Dr. Randy Conover, a family physician in Centerton. “You can get depression as well as the things that come with obesity.”

Still, if combined with a healthy lifestyle, there are more opportunities than ever for kids to set out for a career associated with childhood gaming. Whether through e-sports or tech jobs, those who grew up playing a lot of video games have grown up to be successful professionals.

Tristan Endsley was a semi-professional gamer for several years, and he made a profit from winning tournaments and earning sponsorship deals while in school. He said the future is even more profitable for players now than it was when he played.

“Now, a semi-professional player can make anywhere from $5,000 to about $25,000 per year off of tournament winnings and sponsorship deals,” Endsley said. “This will also vary depending on the amount of events they go to or compete in online.”

The average monthly salary for professional gamers ranges anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000, according to ESportsEarnings statistics. Endsley said playing games competitively is just like any other sport: it takes time and effort.

“It’s like learning to play an instrument,” Endsley said. “You don’t have to have a God-given talent. You just have to practice.”

The skills derived from childhood gaming don’t just apply to coding and e-sports, however. Jarod Medart is a scientific research technologist for the University of Arkansas’ engineering department.

“I handle things simple as desktop repair, laptop repair, but we also run our own server environment,” Medart said.

Medart said his affinity for all things tech came from a childhood filled with gaming. He said the first game he ever played was “Duck Hunt”, a 1984 title for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).

“There’s so much of the knowledge that I’ve learned that’s helped me to even get to this position that came from being able to game and play,” Medart said.

Conover said that parents should set limits on how much a child plays and to make sure there’s plenty of time to socialize outside of the virtual realm.

“[It’s a misconception] in that they have 10 lives in the virtual reality, but we’ve only got one,” Conover said. “So, those types of misperceptions of reality [exist].”

Allen’s parents make sure she socializes with other kids and spends time away from screens, but they said they don’t want her to be afraid of our evolving technology.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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