Video games can often open up a world of confusion and controversy for parents who were unable to play or who were simply uninterested in them during their childhood years. Yet today, video games are enjoyed by children and adults alike throughout the world as not only a pastime but also as a lucrative profession for talented individuals.
Whether your child is duking it out in League of Legends, letting their imagination run wild in Minecraft, traversing Azeroth in World of Warcraft, or even 360-no-scoping in Call of Duty, video games undoubtedly play a huge role in their lives and is something parents should not miss out on. Though not all parents are inexperienced when it comes to video games and their worth as an established interactive medium, there are still people who need to get in the loop.
#1. Understand the worth of video games
Video games have developed a somewhat notorious reputation among parents as being nothing more than a waste of time. Nothing could be further from the truth. At least, video games have now developed to the point where they have the power to alter the way you and your child thinks instead of just being a repetitive, yet enjoyable gaming experience like Pac-Man, Dig Dug, various Mario games and other such classics.
Branching out from their simple beginnings, video games have now adopted a new form of complexity, teaching social cues, assisting in understanding difficult concepts, and even completely altering a player’s perspective of the world through surprisingly mature content. Like other popular mediums, video games can generate genuinely interesting discussions on a whole range of topics, and as a parent, being able to understand the impact of video games can help you engage in more meaningful discussions with your child.
Extra Credits, a YouTube channel exploring gaming concepts, explains this well in their Extra Credits: Enriching Lives video , showing how deep and thoughtful video games can truly be. Players live their decisions in video games and these decisions can make an impact just as, if not more powerful, than movies and books, helping us understand ourselves to a higher degree.
Video games can also be the driving force of what motivates people, as YouTube is filled with testimonies of how video games changed people’s lives and provided comfort and meaning in their darkest hour. Though too numerous to list, a simple search on YouTube will present many results.
So next time you see your child playing a video game, do not just take it at face value. You might learn something valuable yourself.
#2. Use video games to develop a strong relationship and mutual respect
“You reap what you sow” – this is all too true when concerning your relationship with your child. Video games can help build that crucial trust and respect all parents covet and it always helps to show them you have some skill with a controller or keyboard.
Playing cooperative games will allow you and your child to work as a team, develop a proper method of communication between each other and grow just a little closer each session. This is supported by a study published in the journal of Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology conducted by researchers at the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, US. The study found a positive correlation between the development of cognitive and social skills with children who play video games in their spare time making them more socially cohesive.
As a parent, you only have a limited amount of time to enjoy your child’s company while he/she is still around. Those who relegate time with their family for work and other commitments often suffer for it later.Though video games do not control whether your child respects you or not, playing with them and showing that their interests are just as important to you as they are will do wonders for you both.
#3. Not all games are violent, nor do they incite violence
With the negative coverage video games receive from the media, religious groups and the ignorant/impressionable, it is not unreasonable for parents to see video games as a malevolent force of evil hell-bent on warping their child’s mind into that of a blood-thirsty killer. Though it can not be denied that video games of intense violence and gore exist, these are usually for the older, more stoic individuals who are able to discern fact from fiction.
As a parent, it is your job to decide what your child is able to play. Understanding the maturity of your child and discussing with him/her the potential negative cognitive effects of playing a certain game removes the edge of downright denying to buy a game.
Though, if you believe your child is completely impressionable to every stimuli around them, then maybe it is not the game that is the issue.
#4. Educate yourself
Like everything in life, learning the basics is necessary to appreciate what you are engaging with. Understanding the Australian rating system for games and the types of games out there will help you avoid lewd or depraved content you do not want your child exposed to. Better still, having a working understanding of the latest gaming news and most notorious games will help you overcome your children’s inevitable deception when he/she wants to buy a popular game that is just a little too mature for him/her.
Then again, being able to communicate with your child and understand him/her is a better way to gauge what your child is capable of handling. Though, it is strongly advised that you stick to the recommended ratings, even if Australia’s game ratings are considered by many to be incredibly stern.
#5. Do your own research & do not always trust the media
The media, though usually a trustworthy source of information can be just as ignorant as the mass majority when it comes to video games. Often sensationalising stories to invoke public outcry or panic, what lies under the cover may not be all that sinister.
A classic example of this is the Pokémon franchise, a famous 20-year-old franchise sporting many games which is constantly hounded by religious groups due to their beliefs of the franchise promoting witchcraft and demon worship. Though often disregarded due to baseless statements, not all notes of concerns are simply hyperbole. Parents need to do their own research to verify if a game is truly deserving of the controversy it is causing.
#6. You are never too old to play
The average age of a video game player is older than you think. According to The Digital Australia Report 2016 authored by Professor Dr Jeff Brand of Bond University, more than 68 per cent of the Australian population plays video games with the average age of a gamer now being a prime 33-years-old.
This should be of no surprise to parents, especially if they grew up in the 80s during the inception of Pac-Man, Galaga and other arcade classics. With even grandparents getting in on the action, there is no excuse for you to avoid allotting an hour or two to sitting down and playing some games with your kids.
Games are more akin to movies nowadays, so do not be too disheartened if you are not looking forward to sitting down and playing.
#7. “I can’t pause it, mum!”
The all-too-common response – many players can attest to the frustration of being unable to leave a game and many parents can cite their frustration as their requests are denied when their child is playing a game he/she simply can not pause. Out of all the points in this list, this issue seems to cause the most strife.
Whether they have devoted an hour of their time to play as part of a team in an online game, or require an extra five minutes to finish that one final level, understanding that gaming is often a social experience may help you as a parent to avoid unnecessary arguments with your child.
So, how do you get around this? Well, there a many ways to make sure your child is available when you need him/her. A common method would be to limit your child’s console time, but this, in turn, can cause problems. The best thing to do is to understand your child’s position of not being able to leave the game and wait for them to finish. If you need him/her at a certain time, remind your child prior to them playing.
#8. Understand the nuances of online gameplay
The world of gaming is incredibly vast and completely alien to those uninitiated. Though fairly new, online gameplay can lead to the development of real friendships with people from across the world. Of course, there are drawbacks. Online bullying and other more serious threats lurk in the shadows, but with the right know-how, you can breathe easy knowing that your child and yourself are out of harm’s reach.
As a parent, you need to give your child the benefit of the doubt before taking measures. Talk with your child to make sure he/she is not giving out personal information and ask about the people they are associating with online. Of course, players’ ages have a wide variant, so do not raise the red flag too quickly if there is an adult on your child’s friends list. Then again, if it is a game for children 12 and under, then you should be concerned.
And most importantly, make sure your child is not a negative presence online. Like in life, there are many people who just want to see the world burn and parents need to make sure their child is not embarrassing him/herself online by being cruel and inconsiderate. If you have such a child, restrict his/her privileges until he/she knows better.
#9. Understand the technical details
You would not put a piece of toast inside a DVD player, so why would you put a game for one console inside another? This is probably the most common issue when it comes to parents buying their child a video game. Understandably, you may get the right game, but the odds are you got it for the wrong console.
To help parents understand, not all consoles are the same (or called a Nintendo), and hardly any of them play games from a different console. Every console in today’s market only plays games designed for that one console. Though successors of older consoles can sometimes play the older console’s games – as is usually the case with PlayStation consoles – consoles and PCs generally do not play games for other consoles.
So when buying a game, make sure to verify what the title is and what console it is for.
#10. How your child acts online matters
Discovering what kind of player your child is online can make the lives of many players around the world just bit more pleasant. Online games are plagued by people popularly referred to as “trolls”. These players do their best to aggravate and antagonise other players and the last thing you want is to find out that your child is one of them.
So what if your child is a troll? Well, putting a stop to your child’s potential “trolling” can make a world of difference for other players, even to the point of changing their attitudes towards their own parents. On the other hand, a recent study from Iowa State University conducted by Lead researcher Russell Lacznik found that children of emotional and anxious parents were more likely to play violent video games and, in turn, be influenced by the violence. Though this is not inherently saying trolls are the children of emotional and anxious parents, many people have drawn similar conclusions and have invested many hours into purging the gaming community of these people.