Video gaming is more popular today than it ever was. Recent research found that in 2018, there was an average of two gamers present in every game playing house hold in the United States (Entertainment Software Association, 2019). In these households, there is more than 1 gaming device, and a combination of both adults and children playing video games. Despite its popularity, video gaming remains a concern for many parents in households with gaming devices. These concerns can sometimes come across as restrictive or limiting a child’s gaming experience despite the parent’s best intentions. So this blog will briefly outline 5 things parents can do to make gaming safe for children, all the while keeping the gaming experience fun and exciting at the same time.
Sit down and play the game with them: At first this might seem like a daunting task if you do not like or play video games. But to your child, gaming is like any other activity they spend time doing; be it crafts, dancing, reading, Sports etc. So it can be seen as an opportunity for you to spend time with your child in this way. It also allows you to really see what is happening in the game, like its storyline or content, or if the child is talking to strangers online. On the plus side, it is a good bonding moment with your child. Use it to your advantage.
Games like Fortnite have safety controls; use them: Probably the biggest concern for parents is the worry that their child is talking to somebody with malicious intent in their video games. Make no apology for the concern on this, there are some people using these games for cyberbullying or making abusive remarks. Multiplayer Online Battle Arena Games (MOBAs) like Fortnite have safety controls in their user accounts. Gamers can restrict who talks to them, block abusive players, invite only people they know to play with them, and hide their identity if they so choose. Familiarize yourself with these controls and discuss what controls are needed with younger children and tell them why this is the case.
Take the age ratings on video games seriously: No… your child does not HAVE TO have the new Grand Theft Auto. Games like Grand Theft Auto usually get flagged with adult PEGI Age Ratings because their storylines and content can have violent and sexual themes. Many parents buy these games and then allow teenagers slightly younger than 18 to play these games knowing full well the age rating is for an adult. If unsure how to proceed on this, you can use YouTube and online forums to see what the gameplay is like and what gamers are saying about it. You can then make a more informed decision yourself on a game’s content suitability before buying it for your child. Do take the age ratings seriously.
Stop thinking your child will become a video game addicted psycho-killer; they won’t: This is probably the more extreme of concerns that a parent may have about their children playing video games. Some media outlets have “pathologized” gamers due to, what is now, contested scientific studies suggesting that gamers can become “addicted” to video games. Or even more recently, develop “Gaming Disorder” which was recently added to the World Health Organisations’ Classification of Diseases despite scepticism and disagreement among gaming research experts. However, recent research has indicated that even playing violent video games does not lead to increases in violence or aggression. So no, your child will not become a psycho-addicted killer (or anything of the sort!) from playing video games. But like everything else, gaming is not an excuse to miss out on homework, getting a good night’s sleep, spending time with friends, or any other day-to-day activity. Everything in moderation!
Your child is a gamer. Get them to apply their positive gaming skills to other things: Video games are full of obstacles to overcome, problem solving and co-operating with other people. Think about the “pro-social” elements in video games and try to encourage your child to bring them out in other ways. For example, a child who is more shy with face-to-face interactions probably excels at social interactions using headsets and messaging in games. These skills are useful in work environments where online communication is paramount. Research has shown that video gamers are skilled at solving puzzles. Games such as Portal 2 and Shadow of the Colossus are full of difficult obstacles for gamers to overcome. Such applications of puzzle solving have been useful for coming up with innovative ways to treat mental illness.
• Entertainment Software Association: https://www.theesa.com/esa-research/2019-essential-facts-about-the-computer-and-video-game-industry/
• Report cyberbullying in online games: https://cyberbullying.org/report
• PEGI Age Ratings: https://pegi.info/what-do-the-labels-mean
• Benefits of Playing Video Games: https://ecirtam.net/autoblogs/autoblogs/wwwpsyetgeekcom_b5b05cdb291029679998f4bbf13bf6d0c1b27186/media/affa8d7f.amp-a0034857.pdf
• Gaming Disorder is not all but certain: https://www.polygon.com/2018/6/19/17475632/video-game-addiction-gaming-disorder-who-icd-11
• The Myth of Video Game Violence: https://www.stetson.edu/today/2019/08/chris-ferguson-and-the-myth-of-video-game-violence/