One of the highlights of my childhood was when we got an Atari gaming system. We spent hours playing “Pong” where all we did was hit a ball back and forth across a screen using two little vertical lines we called “paddles”. And you know what the big reward was? The first person to get 11 points was the winner! And then we started all over again. There were no advanced graphics, no complicated console, and no in-game chat. It seems pretty crazy how much entertainment we got from that thing! And if you’re too young to remember Atari, I’m sorry, you really missed out.
Video games today are so incredibly advanced , it’s hard for some parents to even understand what’s going on! Well, now is the time to learn, and start playing video games with your kids…yep, you heard me right! Research shows that parents who play video games with their kids provide a safer gaming experience as well as an increase in trust by being involved in this part of their lives.
Virtually all gaming platforms have an in-game chat feature, and most parents don’t know who their kids are interacting with online. By playing video games with your kids, you can not only see who they’re interacting with, but how your child handles those interactions (good and bad), and you can help your child navigate those interactions in a healthy way. It’s important to remember that YOU control your child’s online safety by setting up parental controls and being knowledgeable about your child’s online activity. Playing video games with your child can also give you a window into where they are socially and how they respond emotionally.
The time spent with your child can create a stronger parent-child bond. By entering their world you allow them to “teach” you as well as work together toward a goal. Gaming with your child also allows for those “teachable moments” that we’re all trying to take advantage of. Based on the age of your child and the type of gaming you’ve allowed, you have an opportunity to address moral questions and promote conversations about acceptable behaviors. By having these conversations with your kids, you can learn about their thoughts, opinions, and worldview as well as intervene on any dangerous or destructive thinking. Video gaming with your child can also allow you to observe their problem solving skills and how they handle set-backs and frustration.
Our children are living in a digital world that most of us never imagined; therefore, it’s easy to grow apart from our kids when the gap between what they’re doing and what we understand about it can be so huge. I’d encourage you to take some time to enter their world. It’s an opportunity to understand your child better and know what to watch for in order to protect them online. And guess what? You might actually have fun!