Video Game Addiction- Parenting Kids Who Love to Play
Dealing with reality
You imagined life with your 8-year-old little boy- hours of legos, trucks, and train sets. He builds forts out of sticks outside, collects worms, and plays kickball for hours with the neighbors. The digital soundtrack to Mario Brothers slices through your fantasy and you’re brought back to real life- your son is obsessed with video games. When he’s not playing them, he’s thinking about them, talking about them, and drawing them. Welcome to the modern American experience of raising boys.
This article will break down for you how to deal with your child’s obsession with video games. It will provide you with some statistics, reasons to adjust your expectations, the benefits to gaming, and tips for moderation.
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Video game statistics
65% of households have a video game console of some sort. For the houses that do not, the presence of computers and mobile devices also provide opportunities for some sort of computer game experience. The average amount of hours spent on gaming per week clocks in around 18 (this does not include computer time). Despite the grievous warnings about the connection between aggression and violent video games, other more educational games provide kids with tools to help them in other situations. A University of Florida study showed better scores on tests with kids who had engaged in hours of educational gaming. What is clear from the statistics is that it’s not just about how many hours your kid sits in front of the TV, it’s what he/she is playing that matters just as much.
Adjust your expectations
Think about how many times a day your hands or eyes touch or see a computer of some sort. Banking, grocery checkouts, phones, work, shopping, etc., computers run the world. Children who have parents that are still terrified of technology and its effect on kids, set them up for a difficult road in the future. Unless he/she is destined to live in a third world country, chances are your child will spend hours and hours dealing with computers as an adult. The world is not going to revert back to the 1800’s so as parents- it’s our job to get our kids ready for the real world and not keep them in the fantasy of what we imagined child rearing would look like. All those nostalgic memories have their place and kids will love the campout you've planned. Just don't get stuck in a rut with your ideals.
Benefits to gaming
Kids who play video games develop muscles in their hands. These muscles help with typing, cooking, craftwork, and even surgery. So if your child grows up to be a surgeon, he/she will be playing with technology for most of the procedures and operations!
Consoles like the Wii and Xbox Kinect make gaming a whole body experience. Kids are encouraged to move, dance, and act out the roles they see on the screen. Many a “sweat-fest” have been observed by my three kids rocking out to Just Dance for kids on the Wii.
In many games, kids have to keep track of several things at once- lifespan, money accrued, enemies, paths to the end of the world, etc. This ability to multi-task can come in handy when it’s time to learn important life skills like learning to drive. In order to beat MarioKart, kids have to learn how to steer without over-compensating. For games on the iPad and iPhone such as simulated restaurant and zoo worlds, kids learn how to manage their resources to keep customers (or animals!) well fed.
Encourages cooperation and teamwork
Most games today allow more than one player at a time. In simpler games like Just Dance, adults and kids can easily enjoy the game together. For harder games, two players working together can accomplish tasks more quickly than if it was just one player. Online games are built around social media and learning to work and help others advances the player in the game.
Improves reading skills
When your child is motivated to complete a game, purchasing an in-depth guide will become their favorite reading material. My son Evan blew through over 200 pages of Mario Galaxy guide just to learn the secrets of each world. The language of the guide was written for older kids and he was only in first grade. When it was time to turn off the TV, he was able to feed his love of games through reading.
Tips for moderation
As with anything, too much can be detrimental. Here are some ideas to help moderate the amount of time spent gaming.
- Reading equals games: For every minute they read, they earn gaming time. So if your child reads for three hours a day, they’ve banked three hours of game time.
- Purchase the right console: If you have a Wii, violent games are limited. Other consoles have mature themed games that aren’t beneficial for young kids. If your child spends two hours playing MarioKart, that is different than two hours of Grand Theft Auto. Purchase the right console and games, so that you know that the time spent is in front of appropriate material.
- Give your child unlimited time once a week: If you are a parent and don’t like video games, you don’t understand the frustration of having to turn off a game when you are a few moments from the end of the world. You’ll have a lot less arguing during the week if you let them play unlimited on Friday nights for example. You can remind them of this privilege during the week if they try to complain about turning the TV off on school nights.
- Play with him/her: Take the opportunity to play with your child. Sure, you may suffer some humiliating losses, but it gives you both a chance to spend time together. You’ll feel less guilty about hours in front of the games if you know you are bonding in the process.
The bottom line
Video games are not the root of all evil. In moderation, kids who are into gaming are not destined to a life of violence and stupidity. Choosing products carefully, understanding the benefits to gaming, and enjoying the activity with your kids will go a long way in helping you and your kids enjoy the world of modern technology.