Guest blog post by Amanda Moore
Video games are here to stay. Even if you ban them from your house, your child will go to someone else’s house and play. It’s just how it is.
It’s also unfortunately easy to get overly obsessed with video games. Parents worry about video game addiction, where kids become so enthralled with playing games that they neglect everyone and everything else.
But there are lots of positive ways to handle your child’s hobby and even use it to spur new interests.
Try It Yourself
Don’t be so quick to scoff at video games. Try a game or two yourself. Experts say that playing video games with your children can enhance communication skills.
It’s also fun for your child because they get to be the expert for once. Ask your child why the character is doing these tasks and have them help guide you through the game. Use the game as bonding time.
Apply Video Game Lessons to Modern Life
When you first look at video games, it’s not always evident that there are a lot of good lessons they teach. For example, they teach kids how to save money. In most video games, the player has to go around and collect items, like monetary pieces or power-ups, for use much later in the game. This teaches your child how to save money and delay gratification. Both are good things that many adults don’t know how to do.
In many games like Candy Crush, you can actually buy virtual items with real money. Use this as an opportunity to talk about budgeting and value. If you allow them to buy an item, have them:
- Do real-life chores to earn the money
- Compare how long it took to do the chore versus how long it took to spend it
- Rate how much satisfaction they got from the item
- Reflect on whether the item was worth the real-time and money value
- Video games take 50 to 60 hours of concentrated time. In a world dominated by short attention spans, this is a very good thing.
- Role-playing games teach problem-solving and decision-making skills. You can help your child apply these skills to regular life.
- If your child has friends that are far away, many interactive games that allow them to play together using a headset and microphone. Just remember to monitor these games to make sure no strangers can talk to your child.
View Video Games as a Treat
Like sugar, video games are fine in moderation. Decide on limits on your child’s gaming. This could include things like:
- Only playing a certain number of minutes per day, depending on age
- Playing after homework, chores, and reading are all done
- Writing out schedules for multiple children
- Discuss and follow through with consequences if kids ignore the rules, such as no video games the next day
This last part is especially important. Don’t cave!
Engage Your Child in Physical Activities
Many children play a lot of video games because there’s nothing else for them to do, and it’s an easy choice. Or, the exhausted and busy adults in their lives find video games to be a useful babysitter. But if you provide other options and participate with them, you may be surprised at the results.
As the adult, it’s up to you to get your child moving. Some ideas:
- After dinner, get changed into some comfortable athletic gear, grab a ball and go play catch with your child outdoors.
- Go on a walk around the neighborhood (you could also combine this with a virtual reality game like Pokemon Go or Harry Potter’s Wizards Unite!).
- Encourage your child to join a sports team or take a physical class they’re interested in. Sports teams tend to take up hours each afternoon, so your child will be too busy with their activity to play video games for a long time.
Your child may say they prefer video games over reading. Yet reading’s one of the most important ways to develop their minds, improving discipline, memory, and concentration; plus, most schools require kids to read every night. How can you help them like reading and even link it to gaming?
- Find age-appropriate books of interest to them. If your child’s interested in hockey, don’t push a different book just because you like the subject better. Check out some nonfiction books about hockey from the library or find a novel featuring a child who plays hockey.
- Look at books that are tied to video games, such as the Minecraft series, that will enhance your child’s reading skills and appeal to their gamer side.
- Don’t scorn graphic novels. They’re still full of text, and the pictures may appeal to kids who are more visual learners or are struggling with reading.
Also, read aloud to your child every night. Nothing improves their cognitive skills more. Even if your child’s older, you can select a book that’s too difficult for them to read on their own. The Lord of the Rings series is a popular choice for many tween kids who enjoy video games and is fun to read aloud.
Have an End Cue
Many kids have a problem stopping the game and get upset if it’s ended abruptly. Help your child manage their time and emotions by providing some transitional help.
- Give them a 5-minute warning so they can wrap up and save the game
- Use a “May I have your attention?” cue like one used by teachers to call order into noisy classrooms. This could be a series of claps or the call-and-response of a song or rhyme. The kids immediately know the activity they’re doing is ending, and they have to pay attention.
Video games are going to be part of your kid’s life no matter what. Like Romeo and Juliet showed us, banning things only makes them more attractive (if their families had let them date, I bet Romeo and Juliet would have broken up in two months). So, learn how to use video games to your parental advantage.