Depending on who you’re speaking to, video games are fantastic for kids (improve coordination, teach coding and tech skills) or the devil’s handiwork (too much screen time, makes the kids crazy)–but like most things, the truth lies somewhere in-between.
Video gaming can be great fun and is a fantastic way to spend time with your kids. The key to staying safe while enjoying video games is to set standards and build healthy habits.
Kids start their love affair with video games early, so helping them develop healthy habits needs to start the moment they pick up their first device. The easiest (and fun!) way to do this is to play with them.
Playing video games with your kids has the same positive results as playing in the sandpit with them. You’re spending time with them, and they grow in confidence as they’re able to show you what they have learned as well as the skills they’re developing.
It also lets you have conversations about positive and negative behaviour online, and how long you should spend time on video games before it’s back outside to the sandpit.
Rules for kids
Like all play, there is a need for boundaries to be set around online gaming and what they can or can’t do. Some rules might be:
- playing only games with a G or PG rating
- getting permission from mum or dad before downloading a new game
- playing only when there is an adult in the house to supervise
- playing only at set times of day and for a limited amount of time
- playing only in shared living areas where there are other people around
Staying safe when gaming online
One of the best parts of video gaming is that you can also play with others–and yup, that’s also the most dangerous.
Small kids shouldn’t really play video games with other players online. Sure, you might play with them, but they still might experience things like aggressive, mean, racist or inappropriate language. They might also experience bullying or exclusion.
While kids are in primary school, the best advice is to limit online video gaming to people you know.
All the rules for children and internet safety apply to gaming, and that includes not chatting with strangers, not posting comments, and definitely not giving out personal information.
There’s also a new threat, with the growing popularity of GPS-based games, like Pokemon Go, which involves walking around outside while playing games on a mobile phone.
Make sure your child understands that they need to constantly check their surroundings and watch out for things like cars.
A learning opportunity
As well as teaching kids hand-eye coordination and other skills, online gaming also gives us a chance to teach our kids how to compete respectfully–that being a good sport applies to online as well as real-life sports and competition, and that losing isn’t the same as failure and certainly says nothing about who they are.
Kids need us to tell them they’re awesome, amazing and loved–no matter how many badges they’ve earned or Robux they’ve pocketed.