#Expert Q&A: NJIT’s Donghee Yvette Wohn Weighs the Pros and Cons of Kids Playing Esports

#Expert Q&A: NJIT’s Donghee Yvette Wohn Weighs the Pros and Cons of Kids Playing Esports

March 19, 20243 min read

Donghee Yvette Wohn, an associate professor at New Jersey Institute of Technology and director of its Social Interaction Lab, focuses on human computer interaction, where she studies the characteristics and consequences of social interactions in online environments such as social media, live streaming, virtual worlds (metaverse) and esports.

Here she explains the appeal of esports among children in particular and how their parents can assess what’s appropriate for them.

How would you describe the current landscape of esports?

Esports is an umbrella term that is used for competitive computer gaming that usually, but not always, happens in teams. However, similar to books or movies, the content of the games vastly differs. Some games are very violent, some are not. Some have very realistic graphics, some are very fantasy-like and playful. It is thus hard, especially as a parent, to make blanket decisions when it comes to esports, you may have to take things case by case.

So, then how can parents assess what’s appropriate for their children?

A quick online search into the nature of the game to see its description or even watching ten minutes of what the gameplay looks like on YouTube or Twitch — where many people upload videos of gameplay — will give parents a better idea of what the game is like without having to play it themselves.

What about in terms of the other players?

It may be useful to use physical sports or any other extracurricular activity as a mental reference when thinking of how to deal with certain issues. For example, soccer is a sport that is great for socializing and team building, but if one is placing a 10-year-old in a game with other adults, there would be a lot of extra things one would want to consider. Like any social activity, one would want to be mindful of who the child is playing with, how much they are playing and how they are playing. For example, are they being respectful? And what kind of language is being used during the game?

What skills could esports and similar gaming help children develop?

Based on research, the collaboration and communication skills required to play successfully are extremely high. Even though people do not associate computer games as being a physical skill, the dexterity and hand-eye coordination required to play well require a very high level of intellect and physical ability. Of course, not everyone plays that well, but it does indicate that esports is a little different than some games that are more “mindless” or “relaxing” in nature.

What about social skills?

It strengthens existing friendships and can also open up one’s world by conversing with strangers. My colleagues and I did a research study where we found a student living in a rural area where most people did not go to college who wanted to go college because he was inspired by the older college students he was playing with. Playing the game in supportive environments can be mentally and socially beneficial.

What are the downsides?

Like any social situation, there is always the possibility of people misbehaving. The types of harassment documented in gaming environments is so horrible, but the reality is that children are exposed to all types of horrible situations — both online and offline — and helping them navigate difficult situations can help build resilience for the future.

What’s a common misconception among parents?

The most important thing is to understand that whatever happens in esports is not to be dismissed as something that is “only online” or “not real.” The emotions that children experience in the virtual world are very much real.

How much parental supervision is needed?

Younger children’s brains have not yet developed self-constraint, so the parent should decide how much time should be spent playing games, what games are played and who they are played with. Older children — once they start understanding logic — should be encouraged to plan these things for themselves.

Looking to know more? We can help.

Yvette Wohn is available to discuss esports and kids with media. Simply click on her icon  to arrange an interview.

Connect with:
  • Donghee Yvette Wohn
    Donghee Yvette Wohn Associate Professor

    Dr. Wohn studies the role of algorithms and social interactions in livestreaming, esports, gaming and social media.

You might also like...