So your kid plays video games? 

Human beings have been playing games throughout the centuries. They are part of the human

experience. In fact, today there are approximately 2.2 billion gamers in the world which is a 1/3 of the people on planet earth. Video games are electronic, interactive games known for their colourful elements, sound effects, and complex graphics.

We’ve come a long way from being entertained by dice, cards and board games with over 5 million video games now in existence. The impact of smartphones on the gaming industry has seen mobile gaming as a driving factor for games, as they can reach people formerly uninterested in gaming, and those unable to afford or support dedicated hardware, such as video game consoles. School-age children can also be encouraged to play educational games that reinforce what they are learning in the classroom. 

A common concern for parents is the amount and degree of violence in many video games. Parents are advised to research the games that their children want to buy to ensure appropriate content for the child’s age group. 

Common Sense Media’s Rating and Reviews of all media types, including games are highly recommended. All games are reviewed using these criteria:

  • Educational value
  • Positive messages 
  • Violence 
  • Sex 
  • Language 
  • Consumerism 
  • Drinking, drugs and smoking

Their review of Roblox states the following:

‘Parents need to know that Roblox is a game-creation website where users design and upload their own games, as well as play other games in a multiplayer environment. Some of the gameplay is advanced, and many games include weapons. The site offers a safe-chat mode for those under 13, as well as a parent login that lets you oversee your child’s use of the site….Moderation of content also seems to be hit or miss.’ 

Common Sense Media also provides the Parents’ Ultimate Guide to Roblox and The Parents’ Ultimate Guide to Fortnite and reviews of Minecraft and YouTube

While some children can become very involved in video games and do not want to stop playing them it’s important that parents set concrete limits about the amount of time that can be spent playing games. Being able to enforce these limits is essential. Even educational games should not be played to excess, in order to encourage a healthy balanced lifestyle.

Another point to consider is if the game can be stopped at any time? Some games allow the player the ability to pause or require them to reach a designated save point, while other games lock the player in for a period of time or until there is a winner. That may cause some conflict with parents when they request their child to stop playing and needs to be discussed when the game is installed. Other players may also become angry and could even cyberbully the child who has had to leave the game prematurely.

Best Type Of Games For Younger Children (Under 11 Years)

The best games for this age group will:

  • Reward creativity, imagination and planning
  • Help a child learn about rules and strategy with simple controls
  • Encourage a child to cooperate within a team and play with family and friends in the same room, rather than online with strangers
  • Include different levels of difficulty with the opportunity to progress through levels
  • Make it easy to play in short bursts, take breaks and save progress
  • Include positive messages about gender and diversity
  • Include educational content 

Consider the following guidelines:

  • Length of time they will play for
  • Where they will play (a common area is preferable)
  • Game ratings  (you can refer to these guidelines)
  • Time of day they will play  (it’s best to avoid screen activities late at night as the blue light given off by screens can delay the release of melatonin) 
  • How video games will be balanced with other activities and commitments
  • Always check video game reviews to ensure the game is age-appropriate for your child. Common Sense Media has a great game review section which can be accessed here
  • Help your child choose a username that does not reveal their real name, location, gender, age or any personal information that makes them identifiable
  • Choose an avatar instead of a personal photograph
  • Explain the importance of not sending private information to other players online
  • Review and discuss when to avoid text or voice chat and when it might be okay

The book ’The Parents’ Survival Guide to Children, Technology and the Internet’ also has a chapter devoted to Video Games which includes advice about taking a balanced look at video games and the positive effects of gaming.

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