Gaming with your kids can be a rich and rewarding experience for yourself and your children. It’s a great way of spending time together and doing something you both (hopefully) love!
On the flip side, it’s also easy to see why gaming might not be so good for your children. As a parent, it’s important to take an active approach in your child’s gaming habits so things don’t change from a good experience to one that is addictive and harmful.
In this guide, we are going to go through how to navigate the tricky path of gaming with your kids in 2020.
The Bad Rap of Video Games
Video games have gotten a bad reputation since their mainstream inception decades ago. This really started to hit its stride in the 90’s with the release of extremely graphic games like DOOM, Quake and Mortal Kombat.
Video games were blamed for child violence and aggression. With the media constantly bombarding parents with the general message that video games were promoting violence and anti-social behaviour; it was easy to make the decision that video games were simply not good for your kids.
Nowadays, research has caught up to the hype. And just like so many things, video games can be good or bad for your child.
The Good and Not so Good of Video Games
On one hand video games have several core benefits:
- Improves problem solving and decision making
- Improves hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills
- Reduces stress
- Promotes socialising with other players either online or in person
- Has educational benefits (depending on the type of game)
Of course; video games also have several disadvantages which usually prop up due to excess video gaming or playing games that are not intended for the child:
- Mental health problems such as addictive behaviour, desensitisation to violence and low attention span
- Not enough sleep and poor performance in other areas of life like school
The truth is, gaming is a part of most children’s life. There’s simply no way around it. So the best thing you can do is educate yourself about gaming and become a part of your kids gaming experience.
Variables You Can Control
There are a variety of factors you can influence when gaming with your children to limit the negative effects whilst reaping the benefits:
- How much time your child spends gaming
- What type of game your child is playing
- If they are playing alone or with someone else in person, or online
Every child is different and so taking a “one size fits all approach” doesn’t always work. The best way to do this is to see if any part of your child’s life is disrupted due to gaming.
For example, let’s say your kid’s grades are starting to go downhill. Maybe that is a result of too much game time. It’s then probably a good time to start limiting how much screen time your child gets.
What if they start exhibiting some changes in behaviour? Perhaps they are playing ultra-violent games like those that make up the GTA series. It’s probably a good time to start monitoring and restricting the types of games they are playing.
Here are some tips on enforcing these restrictions without being too unreasonable.
- Set a time limit and let your child know about it. A general guidelines is 1 – 2 hours per day. Warn them when the time limit is almost up so they have time to save their progress.
- Have something already sorted for them to do after they finish gaming. Maybe they like board games or you want to play some good old-fashioned sports outside? There will be a lower chance of an argument if they are looking forward to doing something after their gaming session.
- An easy way of finding if the game your child is playing is appropriate is to follow the ESRB ratings (if you are in the U.S.A) or the rating system of your country of residence. On top of this, you can read reviews and check gameplay videos before allowing your child to play it. This type of control is even easier to enforce if you’re the one who purchases the game for your child.
- Set up the gaming area in a public place. It might be the kitchen or lounge room. That way it’s super easy to monitor your child.
What about Playing Online?
Playing online poses it’s own host of challenges. Step into a game like Call of Duty and you’ll soon come to realise the negative communication – whether verbal or text – that occurs between players.
Online bullying is a real thing and does happen during video games and not just online platforms like Facebook. The best thing is to be knowledgeable about the risks and then communicate this to your child.
In general, ensure your child doesn’t release any private information about themselves or have a photo. Make sure to password protect any app or in game purchases (if possible) so you don’t get an unintended surprise at the end of the month when your bill comes in.
Games for You and Your Child
It’d be silly not to take advantage of the bonding experience that video games can allow between you and your children. There are 1000’s upon 1000’s of games available across all platforms that are suitable for your littles ones. Here is a checklist of games to look out for:
- Co-operative titles like the frantic cooking game Overcooked 2 or puzzle games like Unravel 2 are great at promoting cooperation (duh!) and working together as a team.
- Alternatively, more competitive based games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe are a great way of stimulating and nurturing your child’s competitive edge.
- You can also delve into single player games. Nothing stops you from taking turns with your child or letting them watch you (or your watch them). Minecraft has always been a favorite for children (and one of the most popular games of 2020) and allows them to flex their creative minds. Super Mario Maker 2 is also creatively focused.
- What about retro games that you grew up playing? If you have an old console still lying around, something like the Super Smash Bros 64 still remains a favorite. Popular consoles like the Xbox 1 or Wii U are also backwards compatible to play older titles. Nothing like mixing in a bit of nostalgia with your kids!
Gaming with your kids can be a great experience. Moderation is the key. Too much of anything usually makes that thing a bad thing. And just because you can monitor what your child plays doesn’t mean you shouldn’t involve yourself in the experience. Grabbing a controller and spending a couple hours here and there is a great way of bonding and creating great memories with your children.
About the Author
Isaac Abelman is an enthusiastic tech geek and father of two children. He enjoys passing his knowledge about tech products to readers from all walks of life. You can read more of his content at Your Best Picks.