For approximately one generation now, parents have been faced with the question of how to manage their kids’ involvement with video games. As the games themselves have become more advanced, sophisticated, entertaining and diverse, their appeal has increased for many kids. In addition to setting limits for the amount of time your child can devote to gaming (more about that next week), there are other considerations parents and families should have on this subject.
Know what games your kids are playing. As with the movie industry, video game ratings aren’t an exact science, but they are usually a very good indicator of the subject matter and age appropriateness of the video content. Read reviews, learn the game’s features and overall themes to determine whether it is a good fit for your child. If friends or neighbors already have a specific game your child wants, get feedback on it’s appeal, ease of play and popularity from people who have experience with it. From time-to-time, make it a point to ask your children about the games they are playing as well. It’s a great way to demonstrate interest in your kids’ activities, and monitor the experiences they are having.
Maintain control. Parental controls and free-to-play parent accounts are appropriate measures to take. The entire video gaming experience can be an opportunity to teach responsibility and accountability to your kids. Help them learn about what games are appropriate for them, and encourage them to earn access to more advanced games through their “grown up” behavior, or by achieving agreed upon goals.
Take advantage of games’ best qualities. Particularly for pre-teen children, make sure that a good amount of video time is devoted to games and other activities that encourage creativity, goal-setting, and learning about specific subject matter. To the uninitiated, “video games” have a reputation for being unnecessarily violent and lacking in value, but there is a large number of games that will help children learn meaningful things in a fun environment.
Don’t forget about your family. Multi-player games, those with a physical activity element, and team-oriented themes are ideal opportunities for family members to enjoy some quality time together. Make it a point to devote some time for everyone in the household to be doing the same thing. When deployed properly, video games — like board games in a previous era — can give family members common experiences they will remember fondly. These types of activities are also a great way to reinforce the qualities of teamwork, sportsmanship and self-control (anger management).
Video games are a part of life for most families these days. It’s a good idea to put them to good use and draw on their positive attributes as much as possible.