Do you have a gamer in your household? Based on statistics alone, you probably do. The research shows that almost 80 percent of households have a gaming console, and it doesn’t look like that number will start trending news down.
Video games are here to stay, and as a parent, it’s time to embrace the change and find meaningful ways to allow your child to play their favorite titles—without compromising their chores. If you’re new to the gaming industry, or even new to being a parent, here are six tips to help you navigate parenting for a child who loves virtual worlds.
1. Take time to learn about video games.
The very best parents dedicate time and energy to understanding their children and their passions. Just as you might learn the rules to soccer for an upcoming match, it’s important that you take time to learn about video gaming. If you’re in completely unknown territory, start with basics and learn about the console and games your own child likes to play. Learn any unfamiliar terminology that might help you have better conversations with your child.
In addition to understanding the basics of video games themselves, take time to research both the improvement benefits and the potential hazards of gaming. For example, a recent survey found that consistent gaming over an extended period of time assisted in stress relief, mood improvement, anxiety management, and socialization. In contrast, looking at a screen for extended periods of time may cause eye strain and eventual damage. As such, you may want to consider purchasing blue light glasses for your child to wear when they hop on the controller.
2. Establish home boundaries with the help of your child
Just as you might set household rules for chores or homework, set aside time to establish boundaries for gaming in your home. There’s no one right way to do it; what matters is that it works for both you, your child, and your family. This might include setting rules around taking turns on the console, the hours that can be played throughout the day, or tasks that need to be completed beforehand. If possible, have a conversation about setting the rules with your child. Let them provide their own ideas on how to manage game time and what they’d like to compromise on.
3. Create a dedicated gaming space
This isn’t always essential, but definitely something you’ll want to address: do you want to hear your child gaming, or is it worthwhile to provide a small sound barrier? A dedicated space for gaming is more than just an exciting place to hang knick-knacks; it’s a place where you don’t have to hear every part of the game your child is playing.
If finding a separate space or room isn’t possible, there are other ways to mitigate potential noise. Invest in a good pair of wireless headphones to accompany your console. Using headphones or a headset will keep the noise to a minimum (and they might even help your child focus better, too).
4. Encourage gameplay on cognitive-focused or learning games.
You won’t always be able to control every game your child plays, but it helps if you encourage a few good options. Some games are specifically designed to help improve cognitive function, learn a new skill, or facilitate strategic problem-solving. By playing these types of games, the hobby becomes more than just recreation but a tool to help foster online learning, education, or outside skills.
5. Enforce breaks away from the screen
If you’ve never played video games before, it can be hard to understand how someone can stay focused for hours at a time to complete a level or finish a match. While you might not play long yourself, don’t be hard on someone who gets sucked into the game. Who knows? They might be conquering cities or hiding from a fugitive.
However, even with great gameplay, it’s important to take time away from the console. Even just a 15-minute can have a big impact. Esports healthcare experts recommend early gameplay warm-ups, small meditative breaks, and stretching post-game to help muscles recover. While your child might not be at a professional esports athlete level, they can take a nod from the players they idolize and break from the screen every once in a while.
6. Make gaming a family activity
On the outside, it can sometimes feel that when a child is playing video games, they’re disconnected from the real people in their life. This doesn’t always have to be the case. Many games are inherently designed to be played collaboratively or even in person as a group. If you’re worried that a video game hobby could take away from time with the family, consider bringing the family into that space. Have a dancer in your family? Spend an evening with them as you play Just Dance. Are you a fan of board games? Consider purchasing Mario Party, where fun mini-games, board games, and collaborative adventures await.
Keep in mind, video games might not just be how your child connects with you, but it’s also how they connect with their friends. Many games like Fortnite or Apex Legends are easier when played with the support of teammates on a microphone. As a benefit, a headset with microphones won’t just help your child keep in touch with friends who live far away, it can help them build confidence in conversation if they are socially shy.
Get Involved and Game
At the end of the day, video games are here to stay. As a parent, you can decide how you allow games into the house, what games are played, and when the screen comes off—but don’t feel like you have to have all the answers right away. Do what works best with your family, and if you’re noticing that video games are a regular source of conflict, it might be time to revisit your original boundaries and rules.
Remember, video games can truly become a blessing in disguise when you have the right mindset. Elisabeth Hayes (Gee) of the ASU Mary Lou Fulton Teachers Colleges further shares that, “parents miss a huge opportunity when they walk away from playing video games with their kids…often parents don’t understand that many video games are meant to be shared and can teach young people about science, literacy, and problem-solving. Gaming with their children also offers parents countless ways to insert their own ‘teaching moment.’”