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British children tell parents they want to play traditional games and spend more time with their family

24 Jun 2015 08:00

  • The proportion of children who spend their time playing computer games has doubled in a generation, but two in three (67 per cent) still say they would like to learn traditional games such as chess and draughts
  • Three quarters of parents (73 per cent) think the rise of computer and video games is having an impact on their development, while a fifth of parents (21 per cent) feel that modern playing habits have led to the family spending less time together

New research released by Barclaycard shows that despite the growth in video games, British children still want to learn traditional games such as chess and draughts.  This will come as welcome news to parents who believe the latest apps and computer games are intruding on family time and affecting their children’s development. 

Traditional games played with family and friends such as board games and puzzles have declined in recent years. Consequently, only about half as many children play chess today (24 per cent) compared to when their parents were growing up (45 per cent), and far fewer children (44 per cent) play card games than their parents did (73 per cent). 

However, there is evidence to show that many children actually want to play more nostalgic, family orientated games. Two thirds of children (67 per cent) say they would like to learn how to play games like chess or draughts, with the figure increasing to seven in ten (71 per cent) for single-child families.

The yearning for board games may come as a surprise in today’s device-dominated world. Children are now twice as likely to play computer games (82 per cent), compared to their parents when they were young (38 per cent), with six in ten of those children (60 per cent) playing video games on their own.

Thanks to the popularity of single-player games, a fifth of parents (21 per cent) say the way children play today comes at the expense of family time. More than half (54 per cent) feel they do not spend enough time playing games together and they’re not alone: nearly four in ten (43 per cent) children – rising to 52 per cent amongst those who are the youngest child – also agree. 

Nine in ten (91 per cent) parents believe that the games children play now are different from those when they were growing up, reflecting the rapid transformation of free-time activities in just one generation. The same proportion of parents (91 per cent) attribute the change to an increase in children playing computer games.

Three quarters of parents (73 per cent) think the way kids play today is having an impact on their child. A quarter (26 per cent) feel that their children are not developing the same skills from playing that they did when growing up, and only one in ten (11 per cent) think that the new games actually help their children learn new skills.

The findings are published by Barclaycard to mark this year’s international final of Yes2Chess, an initiative it started two years ago with the charity Chess in Schools and Communities to promote the development of essential skills in young people through chess mentoring, learning and playing, and tournaments.  

David Chan, Chief Executive Officer of Barclaycard Europe, said: “Children today have opportunities to both learn and play through a whole raft of games and technologies that have developed since their parents’ generation. But our research has found that new technology is not always better, and some of the more traditional games still have a place in children’s lives today.  Chess in particular has been shown to improve children’s numeracy and problem-solving skills as well as overall educational outcomes, which is why we’ve been so passionate at Barclaycard to help bring it into schools. 

“In today’s world, where many parents fear that they’re spending less time with their children, there is no better way to bring the family together than to gather round a board game or a pack of cards. Sometimes, the old ways are the best, and parents shouldn’t be afraid to swap their tablet for the chess board every once in a while.”

Dr Kairen Cullen, a Chartered Educational Psychologist, said:

“Rich, varied and age appropriate play is the foundation stone for human intelligence and behaviour. A range of cognitive and emotional skills reflect the quality of play in which children engage, and there is widespread agreement that their play is vital to development and well-being.

“Whilst new technology has a lot to contribute, it is just one way in which children’s play can be stimulated. There can never be a substitute for actual interaction with other children and adults, and so careful time limits have to be placed upon children’s use of new technology.

“One of the best strategies for keeping children’s play balanced is by ensuring that family time is available as an attractive alternative to today’s electronic devices.  This can be as simple as preparing and eating meals together to organised outings and social events. In doing this, adults demonstrate by their own behaviour that it is possible to enjoy and participate in new technology as well as non-virtual pursuits such as physical, social and creative activities.”

Yes2Chess is hosting its annual international chess competition for primary aged school children, with the final taking place in Hyde Park on the 24th June.