I want to start off this post by stating the obvious fact that the content you are about to read is opinion based. We want to look at what healthy gaming looks like in a family. Kelsey and I come from two extremes when it comes to gaming. She had a family gaming system that was used sporadically while my Xbox was running 4-6 hours a night. Our thoughts on the topic are differing in some ways but as parents we need to come to some sort of middle ground in the way we raise our son.
Set Time Limits
First and foremost, you must realize that any hobby can spiral out of control if you don’t set certain time limits for yourself. These limits will look different for everybody and there may be times when you lift the limits on rare occasions (bad weather days, launch of a new favorite game, zombie apocalypse, etc).
When/if Little Dude starts to game, we’ll have an hour limit that is contingent on various chores/responsibilities being fulfilled. This contingency is not just in terms of video games, but any hobby that he finds himself getting into. We hope that this will reinforce the ‘hop on/hop off’ mentality when it comes to playing games (either online or single player).
When you can successfully adhere to a time limit, it is harder to get sucked into long night binge sessions that put sleep and school at risk. I understand full well that an hour is hardly enough time to complete many of the missions in Fallout 4 and may only be enough for 2-3 rounds of Rainbow Six: Siege…but if you start to go past your limits for certain reasons, it will be harder to reel yourself back in to following them.
I never implemented time limits during my years of gaming. I thought there was no harm in it as I didn’t have any plans for the rest of the night. However, it was the lack of control that inevitably led to my addiction in the first place. I wasn’t able to put the controller down or shut off my PC.
There are many studies out there that show a measurable link between violent video games and aggressive behavior/thoughts. They may not trigger someone to rob a bank or shoot up a shopping mall, but there is no denying the impact they can have on developing brains. We have both discussed this topic before and came to the conclusion that we won’t allow certain titles in our gaming library.
Now, that’s not to say that Little Dude will be shielded 100% of the time, but this is why open communication between parents and children is important. We plan on explaining the reasoning for the rules we put in place. Will he listen? Maybe. Our hope is that he will and that he’ll respect certain rules. The possibility of him eventually playing the games doesn’t mean we have to allow them in the household.
So, what is appropriate?
Good question…we have no idea. 🙂 There are some obvious markers of inappropriate games that may not be best for young audiences. Your five year old should probably not be playing or watching you play Grand Theft Auto 5…that is unless you want a nice call from his kindergarten teacher explaining that your son or daughter just pushed a kid off a swing and curb stomped them. Okay, that may be a bit dramatic, but I remember reenacting scenes from movies and video games as a kid. We have said it in our last post but it might be good to repeat…the line between actual reality and virtual reality is blurring as games become more realistic.
If you have a younger kid (under age 10) you may wish to find games that tap into certain creative interests or that have educational value. Studies have shown that educational games (in moderation) motivate kids to want to learn. We like games that have the player solve various puzzles. Games such as Da Blob, Minecraft, and Zelda will appeal to a wide audience, challenge young minds, and spark creativity.
Purchase games that allow for multiple players on the same screen (I know, these are sometimes hard to find). This will enable parents to understand what their kids are playing and is a really good bonding experience. I still remember playing Crash Bandicoot with my parents when I was in grade school. It’s also great to know what your kids are viewing and what actions they are performing in the game. Follow this link for an interesting article in Forbes on the topic.
Warning, content in the links below show graphic scenes from the video games.
Game developers are showing more and more gruesome detail in some of the mature titles that allow players to torture people, show them getting ripped in half with a chainsaw, and encourages the killing people for fun. The viewing of this type of content has been shown to desensitize individuals in the real world. There is something that is obviously effecting the physiology of our children when they are exposed to that kind of stuff.
Just use your heads. Children are still trying to make sense of the world around them. Don’t be ignorant to the content that your young ones are consuming. There are plenty of appropriate titles out there for youth to enjoy. Set limits on the amount of time they are spending in front of a screen. You should also set limits for yourself to set a good example for them.
For children who may be closer to age ten, I would recommend trying a video game contract and adapt it to your needs. This can be an event where everyone sits down to write it up together, with parents letting the kids ‘fill in the blank’.
For instance, a rule for a time limit can be worded as such:
I will only play my video games for 1 hour a day, unless given permission to play longer.
This way your child can take part in the rules and discussion of why there are certain rules. I would definitely recommend that parents discuss the rules/guidelines before sitting down with the kids. This way you’re both on the same page for ‘negotiations.’ You can also sign the contract together and let the child know if the contract is broken, there will be consequences.
Now for a child this may help them control their gaming and give them a good sense of responsibility. However, if you’re an adult struggling with excessive gaming or gaming addiction I strongly encourage an accountability partner/friend and setting guidelines for yourself. If you’re married or live with someone, spark a conversation about gaming to see how they feel and they could possibly help with a few guidelines.
If you have trouble sticking to your own guidelines, please check out the resources on our previous post or go cold turkey and sell your gaming console or PC. Don’t let gaming interfere with a healthy life.