Mention video games and many parents roll their eyes at what is often a point of conflict and concern in the home. While games are second nature to many children, parents worry about addiction, the negative impact gaming may have on their child’s concentration and fitness and, where in-app purchases are concerned, the amount of money it may cost. But, although research into gaming is still in its infancy, studies show that there are actually lots of positive lessons to be learnt from gaming.
As well as helping to develop social skills, such as taking turns and collaborating, games can also nurture strategic and conceptual thinking. You just have to set some ground rules.
Manage screen time
General advice is that up to an hour a day is acceptable, but a better measure for parents is how varied a child’s screen time and interactions are. Ensuring children engage in a variety of activities on their screens instigates regular breaks between sessions and can also create a context for families to play games together. Click here for more tips.
A sedentary lifestyle is another perceived danger for gaming children. Certainly, youngsters need to engage in a range of activities that don’t all take place indoors. While some games with motion controls build in movement, it’s essential that games form part of a healthy lifestyle.
Most youngsters are keen to share and talk about the games they play
Perhaps the biggest difficulty for parents is being an outsider in this crucial part of their children’s leisure time. Even for those who haven’t developed an enjoyment of games growing up, it’s important to find titles they can play with their child. By researching online or watching family gaming guides, parents have the chance to take an active role both in choosing the games their children play and in enjoying them together.
Keeping gaming technology in shared family spaces, and ensuring tablets don’t end up in bedrooms, is another way to stay involved in your child’s video game enjoyment.
Parents often assume that children don’t want Mum and Dad interfering with their games, but most youngsters are keen to share and talk about the games they play – just ask your child about their favourite Minecraft mob.
Set parental controls
It’s crucial that you set parental controls on tablets and consoles before putting them in the hands of children. This limits online interactions and sharing as you deem appropriate. You can also disable in-app purchases so you don’t have any surprises in your next bill. It will also allow you to specify what PEGI age-rated games can be played.
Many video games in Europe are given a PEGI age rating. If you wouldn’t want your child to watch an 18 film, you probably wouldn’t want them to play an 18 game. PEGI ratings can actually prevent children accessing age-inappropriate games. You can do this by setting age-appropriate parental controls on your child’s games consoles and devices. Read more about games’ ratings here.
Doing this as a family means that you can agree the settings together and have a healthy conversation about which games you play, and for how long you play them.
While not all of these things are easy to achieve, it’s important to invest the time and effort. Make video games a family activity and most concerns will be resolved along the way. Children also get more out of these experiences by discussing and sharing them with the wider family.