How to Handle Your Children’s Video Games Positively
It can feel like you are constantly trying to snag your children’s attention, whether they are staring at their phones or simply not paying attention. But one thing that tends to frustrate a lot of parents is when they have to deal with their children playing video games excessively.
Personally, I see where the frustration comes from, but I also understand the appeal. When I was young, I was outside more often than not, but I also had several siblings and cousins to play with, as well as the rest of the neighborhood kids. But as the average American family has fewer children than ever, more of our kids look to connect to others through video games.
With that in mind, I have altered my approach to my children’s video game playing to make it more of a positive part of our family, and I have some tips on how you can do the same.
Spend Time Playing Video Games With Your Children
You don’t have to be a big fan of playing video games to enjoy playing them with your child. And if that’s where your kids spend a good chunk of their free time, it makes sense to become at least familiar. Most of us parents become at least a little involved with any of our children’s hobbies we consider “normal” like sports or music, so we should extend that interest to video games.
Also, I found that it was easy to just hang out with my kids for a couple of hours as we passed controllers, commentary, and plenty of laughter as we played group games like Mario Kart 8 and fell off the treacherous rainbow road or ran over a banana.
If you aren’t sure where to start with multiplayer games you can play with your kids, there are plenty of reputable sites that have developed lists of video games families can play together. Or, you can simply ask your kid what they play with your friends.
While you may not be a fan of some of your children’s video games — my son’s favorite game makes me very motion sick — your kids likely have an idea of what you might like to play with them.
Allow The Games To Open Up Tough Conversations And Topics
Old arcade games may not have been much of a conversation starter, but many modern video games explore difficult themes and topics in more manageable ways that can allow the alert parent to take advantage of a good conversation opener.
For instance, my oldest daughter enjoys a game called Stardew Valley. The deceptively simple farming simulator game has charmed her into hours of planting crops, raising animals, talking with NPCs (non-player characters), and finishing quests. The basis of the game is that someone with a job in the tech industry left an unfulfilling job to live in the country and run the farm.
As my daughter told me about the basis of the game, we were able to dive into a great discussion about her goals for the future, some of her concerns about going to college, and other hard topics that can be tough to get teens to open up about.
Along with this conversation, my children and I have discussed things like gun control, gender inequality, and other hard topics, all launching off from the video games they are playing.
Set Clear Rules Around Gaming Time
To ensure that video games stay a positive thing in my family and don’t spiral into an addictive habit, my wife and I have set clear rules around gaming time. Some of the rules we have that you may want to implement are:
- No games before homework is completed.
- If grades slip because homework is being skipped in favor of playing, there will be no weekday video games until the grades are back up.
- Weekdays, video gaming curfew is at 8:00 pm.
- Mom and dad have to approve of any gaming purchase.
Add Other Fun Activities Outside Of Gaming
There is always the concern that video games will become the only form of recreation that children turn to, whether it’s on a console, computer, or smartphone. To provide your children with other entertainment outlets, we do our best to have two planned family outings that have nothing to do with playing video games.
Some of the things we have done that have helped spark our children’s in the real world outside of gaming are:
- Hiked to our local lake and gone swimming.
- Went to a nearby city and in two teams, had a photo scavenger hunt.
- Attended the county fair.
- Volunteered as a family to help with a local charity boxing food donations.
By implementing these various strategies, I’ve been able to alleviate some of my anxieties about my children’s video game playing and allow it to be a positive thing my children can enjoy.
Tyler enjoys going to the mountains near his home in Draper, Utah to connect with his wife and children through camping, hiking, and quality time together. When he isn’t rebooting in the outdoors, he shares his fatherly experiences with the world through writing and creative designs. Tyler shares the ups and downs of family life and the solutions he’s found through lengthy research and involvement in the industry and his own experiences to help parents everywhere. Follow Tyler on:Twitter | LinkedIn
I am always thankful to have Tyler Jacobson write for my blog because he covers a topic that I am not yet familiar with: teenagers.
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