April 29, 2010

Boy Scouts Introduce New Video Game Merit Pin

The Boy Scouts of America have introduced a brand new award for academic achievement in video gaming, a move that health experts disagree with.

"It could be quite visionary and exciting or it could be a complete sellout," Dr. Vic Strasburger, professor of Pediatrics at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine told Fox News.

"The devil is in the details," said Strasburger, who said teaching kids media literacy would be valuable, as long as the games were free of the violent and sexual content.

"I don't see anything wrong with that as long as they're not playing first-person shooter games, violent games, games with a lot of sexual or drug content. The question is, who's going to supervise the scouts?"

The Scouts are encouraging their youngest members to explore the Great Indoors and "learn to play a new video game" approved by their parents and guardians.

This is a big step for the Scouts, who have traditionally promoted physical outdoor actives like camping and sports.

This means video game merit pins will now be alongside a modern scouts' sash, filled with merits like art, astronomy, music and mathematics.

Tiger Clubs, Cub Scouts, and Webelos Scouts can earn their pins by spending an hour a day playing games, teaching others to play better, and even researching the best price for games they would like to purchase.

According to the online guidelines, the games must "help you practice your math, spelling, or another skill that helps you in your schoolwork."

The Scouts claim that gameplay is already a part of so many kids' lives, and that the merit challenges could harness some of that interest into a more constructive end.

"Let's be serious: the kids are already into video games," Renee Fairrer, a spokeswoman for the Boy Scouts of America, told Fox News.

Fairrer said Scouts focus on youthful energy and interest through safe and constructive channels.  She said most boys are interested in firearms, so the Scouts offer Rifle Shooting and Shotgun Shooting badges to teach proper safety protocols to older members.

Fairrer said the Scouts hope to prevent kids from becoming couch potatoes and developing juvenile diabetes by teaching them proper gaming habits at a young age.

"You can't sit on the couch for 13 hours a day and play video games," she told Fox News. "We want to get them when they're that Cub Scout age, when they have that strong parental influence, to be able to make those decisions" and see it as only a small part of their daily life.

The Scouts have introduced 13 new merit pins this year for topics such as Disability Awareness, Family Travel, Good Manners, Hiking, Hockey, Horseback Riding, Kickball, Nutrition, Pet Care, Photography, Reading and Writing, Skateboarding, and Video Games.


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