This article looks at gaming, children, how to have productive conversations with your children and setting limits.
You can watch our presentation on this topic in the video below. While this was delivered during the Primary Principal’s Live Stream, the content shared is relevant to children at all ages.
Parents express concern about gaming and their children. Often they are concerned about excessive gaming and the types of games children play. To help you and your children develop good habits and set reasonable expectations it is important for you to educate yourself on this topic. By educating yourself, you will be equipped to have conversations with your children that are effective and will lead to positive outcomes.
This article explores common questions parents have about gaming such as:
- Why do children like gaming?
- What are the good and bad of gaming?
- What strategies are there for parents to help children establish healthy habits?
To begin, we need to establish a few pieces of information.
This article is a complement to the live stream presentation on this topic given on 13th January 2021. Click here to view the recorded video.
Who Our Children Are
It is important to understand the context of our children, who they are, and the world in which they are growing.
You may notice that young children reach out to a TV or computer and try to control it through touch. This is because they were born in a world filled with iPhones, iPads, and apps. Because of this, our children are sometimes called the iGeneration, however, their actual name is Generation Alpha (Wikipedia).
Generation Alpha are children born between 2010 and 2025, with the oldest children now being about 10 years old. They are the first generation born entirely in the 21st century. They, like their older siblings are characterized as:
- being social,
- using mobile technology,
- are global in their worldview while being comfortable with digital technology,
- and prefer visual media.
They find digital entertainment and media fun.
What is a Growth Mindset?
For our discussion, we follow a fact-based, research-based approach using information from developmental psychology, research, and educational theories.
We can positively influence our children’s growth and development if we focus on and support their efforts and struggles, even if they fail and make mistakes, instead of only praising and focusing on their successes (i.e. grades). This is suggested by the growth mindset theory developed by Carol Dweck (Learning Theories) and her research on developmental psychology.
This is a view that everyone’s talents, their habits, and behaviors can be developed through hard work, good strategies, and input from others. A famous example from Ms. Dweck’s research showed a long-term positive impact on children’s development by focusing on their effort instead of praising the end-results. She recommends you say, “That was good effort!” instead of saying “Well done, you got a good grade!”
What is a Balanced Life?
Co-founder of the NeuroLeadership Institute, Dr. David Rock says, just like the healthy food pyramid, there is a Healthy Mind Platter. He continues, ‘just as our brain needs proper food, he suggests these seven activities are important to strengthen the inner connections and development of our brain.’
- Focus time – the time when we focus on goal-oriented tasks; for our children this is often their schoolwork.
- Sleep – which helps the brain consolidate learning and recover from the day’s activities.
- Physical time – the time we spend moving our bodies. In school this is often supported by our PE classes.
- Down time – when we are not focused, no goal in mind, and let our mind wander or simply relax to recharge our brain.
- Connecting time – the time we spend connecting with other people, ideally in person, such as over dinner. Unfortunately, these days we often have to do this virtually.
- Time in – when we quietly reflect internally on our feelings & thoughts.
- Play – for both adults and children, this is unstructured and self-directed time when we are creative, enjoy new experiences, and get to engage in things we are interested in.
Being positively engaged in your child’s life and being well informed with good information will have a positive impact on the growth and development of your child. This includes when it comes to setting rules & boundaries and when it comes to finding both fun & balance in life.
Why Children Play Games
There are many reasons people play games.
- They are stimulating and fun.
- They connect with friends when playin
- Their friends are playing the same game, so they feel like they are part of a community.
- Gaming allows children to feel a degree of control/freedom because they choose what they play and how they play the game.
- Gaming is shown to release pressure and stress.
- They feel challenged and feel rewarded when they find solutions or solve problems.
Numerous studies have been conducted demonstrating gaming has a positive impact on reading and language acquisition, supports the development of problem-solving skills, improves hand-eye coordination, and helps develop memory skills.
In summary, gaming supports social and emotional needs while having positive impacts on growth and development.
Parents’ Concerns: Information on Games Children are Playing
There are new games that capture the excitement and interest of children appearing all the time. What is popular today will be replaced with something new in six months. Understanding what your children are interested in playing will help you understand why they want to play them and will help you guide them to play games that are appropriate for their age.
There are many websites available to help parents to learn about the games their children are playing.
- Common Sense Media’s game review (this is our go-to site for many parent resources)
- Ask about Games
- Pluggedin: Focus on the Family
These websites provide information on games that is straight forward and easy to understand. Understanding which games are OK for children to play is very similar to deciding which movies or TV shows they can watch.
We recommend children are not allowed to play first-person shooters or anything that depicts violence similar to what you see in a live-action movie. Games that encourage problem solving or collaborative engagement with friends and peers are good for development and for maintaining friendships.
Aiming for Balance
Aligned with the balanced life diagram above outlining seven essential mental activities, the purpose of finding balance is to find time for relaxation, down-time, building connections, and play to offset all the hard work done and focus time. Some of these activities can be combined or achieved through a single activity. For example, playing with friends helps with both play and building connections.
When it comes to setting boundaries your children look to you, and learn from you. They learn from you and learn how to live their lives, so it is important to be a good role model for them and to be involved (PLAY: Psychologist Advice for Healthy Gaming).
Being a good role model includes showing how you balance your life. Show your children it is important to work and that it is equally important to play while demonstrating the importance of meeting our obligations and expectations. You will need to discuss and demonstrate this through regular, and repeated conversations.
There is no single recipe for success when it comes to finding balance, especially when two people want different things. We recommend you have discussions on the following topics
- To find balance it helps to understand what you want and what your child wants. Asking your child the question, “why do you want to do what you want?”
- How long they are allowed to play for?
- It will help you in your conversation with your child if you understand that different games require different amounts of time. Some can be played in 15 to 30 minutes while other games are more complex and require two or more hours to meet a goal.
- When is it appropriate to play?
- This time should be after getting your work done or meeting obligations, but there should be a time when it is OK to play.
- Where they are allowed to play?
- We recommend the living room, or a common room shared by all members of the family. For younger children we do not recommend they play games in their bedrooms.
As noted above, there is no single or simple recipe for finding balance, and what this looks like for your family may be different from friends and other families. However, by engaging with your children and having a conversation with them, that asks them for their thoughts, you will be on the right path to building a healthy and effective relationship with your children.
Sources & Resources
There are many resources for parents that can be trusted. The following were used for this article and are good resources for families to use when discussing gaming.
- eSafety Commissioner – Online Gaming
- The New York Times Smarter Living – How and When to Limit Kids’ Tech Use
- Common Sense Media – Presentations for Parents & Families
- Common Sense Media – Social Media, Gaming & Mental Health
- Internet Matters – Online Gaming Advice
- Iowa Reading Research Center: Parent-Child Conversation: More Than Just Idle Chatter
- kcParent: Tips for Inspiring Conversations with Your Kids