Technology can be a lot of things depending upon how you use it. Some technology is quite good for us, and some not so much. Often the same technology is both; good when used to serve its purpose and bad when it is misused.

Phones are an excellent example because calling in to work or keeping in touch with people regardless of the amount of distance can be a very good thing. Conversely, having our eyes glued to flashing displays and becoming oblivious to the world around us can get us into trouble.

However, walking into a pole while texting your boss that you can’t make it in today might yield bruises to justify that sick day ... but there are easier, and less painful, ways to get a day off.

But phones are far too easy to blame for, well, everything. So let’s try some other piece of shiny technology we might not know has a hidden benefit. Let’s talk about something everyone (who doesn’t play them) loves to blame for everything from obesity and social anxiety issues to garden variety laziness. Let’s take everyone’s favorite technological punching bag and turn it into something positive. Let’s take a breath from blaming this thing which has corrupted everyone since the “Pong Generation” and shine a light on its good points.

Video games aren’t always bad for you. What? How? Really?

As it turns out, video games don’t really turn your body to mush and your brains to jello. Or at least they don’t have to. Many video games teach young children skills such as reading and typing, and Michael Waas (in an article for Mind Foundry) lists numerous instances where even strictly entertaining video games have an educational benefit which, far from melting young and older minds, actually improves them. Apparently, anything to start and keep the old neurons firing is a good thing.

Who knew “Resident Evil “was a pathway to improved math and science — not to mention English — scores? OK, I think he was referring to educational programs like “Oregon Trail” and “Math Blaster.” But he does mention “Minecraft” in a favorable light.

And it isn’t just young people who can benefit from playing video games. Anything which keeps the mind engaged and forces us to use the old gray matter to solve problems can actually improve mental flexibility. And on the more action-based games it has even been shown to improve reflexes. So maybe it isn’t such a bad thing for your kids to play “World of Warcraft.” Maybe we should even play with them — they will probably make us all look like “noobs,” but that’s OK. We’re paying for it and can make them go to bed early.

Like anything else, whether it is for ourselves or our kids, we should do a little advance research. There are maturity ratings on a lot of the more popular video games, so use them to full advantage. But there are so many games out there, it is a given that at least some will interest you and your kids. And possibly your parents, too, for that matter. Grandpa might actually enjoy “Call of Duty” or “Halo.”

Regardless, the most important thing is that there is benefit in fun, too. It reduces blood pressure and stress, and some of the sports games might actually count as exercise. Just remember, it’s all fun and games, even when your mother and your daughter both beat you at Mario Kart.

Reach CHARLES ROMANS at cromans@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2655.

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