It’s not uncommon for kids to try out a lot of different activities as they grow up. Some find joy in creative pursuits like art, theatre or dance. Others are drawn to team sports like basketball, hockey or soccer, while some kids enjoy solo activities like fencing, music or mountain biking. One activity that might catch parents off guard? E-sports. When kids express interest in joining an organized league to play competitive video games, it might seem like a clever ploy for more screen time. But, more and more children are interested in e-sports, and parents and educators are starting to weigh the potential benefits and drawbacks of this activity. Here’s everything you need to know.
What exactly are E-sports?
E-sports is short for “electronic sports,” and it’s basically a form of organized competitive gaming. Believe it or not, there are leagues around the world with professional gamers and teams that compete in front of both live and online audiences. They play a wide range of games, including traditional sports games like FIFA and NBA 2K, popular multiplayer battle-style games like League of Legends and Dota 2, and first-person shooter games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Overwatch.
And, e-sports has blown up in recent years. Professional players and teams compete in big-ticket tournaments for large cash prizes—and the global audience of fans and spectators is steadily growing.
What’s the difference between gaming and e-sports
Chances are that you’re already familiar with gaming. It’s a popular way for kids to pass the time and a major form of social connection for a lot of friend groups. Gaming can be either casual or competitive, but it’s usually informal. E-sports, on the other hand, involves organized and competitive leagues and tournaments. It requires a higher level of skill and organization. Gaming would be akin to a casual game of hoops in the driveway—while e-sports is an organized basketball team in a competitive league.
Just like players on a basketball team practice, e-sports players train. The top players in the world might practice for hours each day—and many of them have professional contracts and sponsors. E-sports tournaments and events attract huge audiences, and the cash prizes can be massive.
Where can kids participate in e-sports?
If your kids are serious about pursuing e-sports, you might be able to access local clubs and organizations in your area. And, you can do a quick search to find out if there are any e-sports meetup groups in your community. Online platforms like PlayVS and Battlefy can also be good places to start when searching for an organization or league to join.
Some schools have started offering e-sports as part of their athletic or extracurricular programs, letting students compete against other schools in organized play. And, community rec centers like the YMCA and Boys and Girls Clubs are offering e-sports programming for participants to join.
What are the pros of e-sports for kids?
E-sports can be a fun and rewarding activity for kids—so long as they have a balance of other healthy activities in their life as well. Some parents are surprised to learn that e-sports can even offer perks similar to participating in other organized sports. In fact, many universities are starting to offer e-sports scholarships—and professional gaming can be lucrative with sponsorships, endorsements and tournament winnings. For kids who are truly passionate about gaming, e-sports can offer a lot of positives. Some of the benefits of e-sports can include:
- Improved cognitive skills like spatial awareness, problem-solving and decision-making
- Learning teamwork and communication
- Career opportunities for professional players, coaches and other positions in the industry
- Potential scholarship and financial reward
- Better accessibility for a wider range of kids than traditional sports
What at the cons of e-sports for kids?
While e-sports can offer camaraderie, social connection and fun, it’s not without its risks. Parents are well-advised to keep an eye on gaming activities for kids—and ensure that e-sports happens in balance with other aspects of a healthy lifestyle. Some of the cons of e-sports can include:
- Negative health impacts from extended sedentary periods
- Lack of balance with other important activities like schoolwork, socializing and exercise
- Eye strain and other health issues like headaches, back pain and carpal tunnel syndrome
- Exposure to inappropriate content, cyberbullying and harassment in in-game chats
- Pressure and burnout from competition
You can mitigate lots of the cons of e-sports by including a variety of healthy activities—and ensuring your kids are participating in age-appropriate gaming. Like all things, an open and honest dialogue is important. Make sure kids know they can come to you with issues and concerns, and stay curious about how they’re spending their e-sports time.
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