Parenting Around Video Games
Parenting in today’s digital world is a complex task. The allure of video games is strong, and children often prefer them over traditional social interactions and exercise. How can parents negotiate this modern landscape, fostering healthy habits without stifling their child’s love for gaming? This comprehensive guide provides insights and strategies to create a balanced family lifestyle.
Understanding the Video Game Attraction
- Child’s Perspective on Video Games:
Video games can provide fun, excitement, challenge, learning, creativity, and social interaction for your child. They can also stimulate the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that makes us feel good. Try to empathize with your child’s perspective and appreciate the positive aspects of gaming.
Video games can appeal to different types of children, depending on their personality, preferences, and needs. Some children may enjoy video games that are fast-paced, action-packed, or competitive, such as racing, fighting, or sports games. These games can satisfy their need for thrill, adventure, or achievement. Other children may prefer video games that are slow-paced, relaxing, or cooperative, such as puzzle, simulation, or adventure games. These games can satisfy their need for calmness, exploration, or connection. Some children may like video games that are educational, informative, or creative, such as trivia, strategy, or sandbox games. These games can satisfy their need for knowledge, curiosity, or expression.
- Parent’s Perspective on Healthy Habits:
While recognizing the appeal of gaming, parents also want their children to engage in social activities and physical health. Finding a balance between these aspects is key.
Social activities are important for children’s emotional and social development. They help children learn how to communicate, cooperate, empathize, and resolve conflicts with others. They also provide children with a sense of belonging, friendship, and support. Physical health is important for children’s physical and mental development. It helps children maintain a healthy weight, prevent diseases, improve mood, and boost self-esteem. Parents want their children to participate in social activities and physical health that are appropriate for their age, interests, and abilities.
Finding a balance between video games and other activities can be challenging for parents and children. Some of the factors that can make it difficult are:
- The availability and accessibility of video games. Video games are widely available and accessible through various devices such as computers, consoles, smartphones, or tablets. Children can easily access video games at any time and place.
- The addictive nature of video games. Video games can be addictive for some people who play them excessively or compulsively. Video game addiction can interfere with other aspects of life such as school, work, family, or health.
- The lack of awareness or agreement on screen time limits. Screen time refers to the amount of time spent on devices that have screens such as TVs, computers, smartphones, or tablets. Screen time can include video games as well as other activities such as watching videos, browsing the internet, or using social media. Screen time can have positive or negative effects on children’s well-being and development depending on the type, quality, and quantity of screen time. Parents and children may not be aware of the recommended screen time limits for different age groups or may not agree on how to enforce them.
Finding Common Ground: Shared Goals and Values
Identifying shared goals and values creates a strong foundation for negotiation and compromise. Aligning values helps in crafting solutions that satisfy both parties.
It can be helpful outlining strengths and achievements in non-video game activities. Take time for the conversation to unfold and reveal thoughts beyond the typical “I don’t know” and refusals.
One way to find common ground with your child is to identify shared goals and values that you both want for yourselves and each other. For example:
- Happiness: You both want to be happy and enjoy life.
- Health: You both want to be healthy and avoid illness.
- Personal growth: You both want to learn new things and improve yourselves.
- Family: You both love and care about each other.
By focusing on these shared goals and values, you can create a positive atmosphere for negotiation and compromise. You can also use these goals and values as criteria for evaluating different options or solutions.
Another way to find common ground with your child is to show interest and appreciation for their hobbies and passions. Learn more about what your child likes to do or learn in their free time, such as video games, sports, music, art, etc. Ask questions, listen attentively, give compliments, or join them in their activities. This can show your child that you care about them and respect their choices. It can also help you understand their perspective and motivation better.
For example, if your child loves video games, you can:
- Ask them what kind of games they like and why.
- Watch them play or play with them.
- Praise them for their skills or achievements in the game.
- Learn about the benefits or drawbacks of the game.
- Share your own experiences or opinions about the game.
By showing interest and appreciation for your child’s hobbies and passions, you can build rapport and trust with them. You can also find some common interests or activities that you can enjoy together.
Effective Negotiation Strategies with Children
Negotiating with children can be challenging, but not impossible. Here are some effective strategies that can help you negotiate successfully with your child:
- Clear Communication: Communication is the key to any negotiation. It is important to communicate clearly and honestly with your child about your expectations, concerns, and feelings. It is also important to listen to your child’s views, needs, and feelings. Use a calm, warm, and firm voice. Avoid yelling, threatening, or bribing. Express your feelings and concerns using “I” statements instead of “you” statements. For example, say “I feel worried when you play video games for too long” instead of “You are wasting your time playing video games”. Use open-ended questions instead of closed-ended questions. For example, ask “How do you feel about playing video games?” instead of “Do you like playing video games?”. Use positive language instead of negative language. For example, say “Let’s find a way to balance video games and other activities” instead of “You need to stop playing video games so much”.
- Active Listening: Listening is as important as talking in a negotiation. It is important to listen actively and attentively to your child’s feelings and opinions. Show that you are interested and engaged by using verbal or non-verbal cues such as nodding, smiling, or saying “uh-huh” or “I see”. Repeat or paraphrase what your child says to check for understanding. For example, say “So you’re saying that you play video games because they make you happy?” or “What I hear you saying is that you play video games because they help you relax?”. Ask clarifying or probing questions to explore deeper issues or concerns. For example, ask “What makes you happy about playing video games?” or “How do video games help you relax?”. Validate or empathize with your child’s feelings or opinions without judging or criticizing them. For example, say “I understand that playing video games makes you happy” or “I can see why playing video games helps you relax”.
- Collaborative Solutions: Collaboration is the essence of a successful negotiation. It is important to involve your child in the decision-making process and find solutions that work for both of you. Brainstorm different options or ideas that can address both your needs and preferences. For example, suggest “How about we play video games together for an hour and then go for a bike ride?” or “What if we set a timer for 30 minutes and then switch to another activity?”. Evaluate the pros and cons of each option or idea using the shared goals and values as criteria. For example, ask “How will this option make us happy?” or “How will this option affect our health?”. Choose the best option or idea that satisfies both parties. For example, agree on “We will play video games together for an hour and then go for a bike ride” or “We will set a timer for 30 minutes and then switch to another activity”.
- Positive Reinforcement: Reinforcement is the key to maintaining a successful negotiation. It is important to praise and reward your child for following the agreement or making a compromise. Use specific and sincere praise to acknowledge your child’s efforts or achievements. For example, say “You did a great job of sticking to the timer” or “You were very cooperative and flexible today”. Use tangible or intangible rewards to motivate your child to continue the positive behavior. For example, offer “You can choose the next game we play” or “You can have an extra 10 minutes of screen time tomorrow”. Avoid using punishments or threats to enforce the agreement or compromise. They can backfire and cause resentment or rebellion in your child.
- Parental Control Tools: Parental control tools are useful aids that can help you monitor and guide your child’s screen time. They are apps or software that allow you to set limits, block inappropriate content, track activity, or manage access to various devices or platforms. Some of the features and benefits of parental control tools are:
- Time limits: You can set a daily or weekly limit on how much time your child can spend on video games or other screen activities. You can also schedule specific times when your child can or cannot use the devices, such as bedtime, mealtime, or homework time. This can help your child develop a healthy and balanced routine and avoid excessive or compulsive gaming.
- Content filters: You can block or restrict access to certain websites, apps, games, or genres that you deem inappropriate, harmful, or unsuitable for your child. You can also set age ratings or parental ratings for the content that your child can view or play. This can help your child avoid exposure to violence, profanity, nudity, or other negative influences.
- Activity reports: You can monitor and review your child’s screen activity, such as what websites they visit, what apps they use, what games they play, how long they play, who they chat with, etc. You can also receive alerts or notifications when your child tries to access blocked or restricted content. This can help you keep track of your child’s online behavior and intervene if necessary.
- Access control: You can manage and control the access to various devices or platforms that your child uses, such as computers, consoles, smartphones, tablets, etc. You can also create different profiles or accounts for different children or family members with different settings and preferences. This can help you customize and optimize the screen time experience for each individual.
There are many parental control tools available in the market, each with different features, prices, and reviews. Some of the popular and reputable ones are:
- Qustodio: A comprehensive and user-friendly parental control app that works on multiple devices and platforms. It offers features such as time limits, content filters, activity reports, access control, location tracking, panic button, etc.
- Net Nanny: A powerful and flexible parental control software that works on multiple devices and platforms. It offers features such as time limits, content filters, activity reports, access control, screen time allowance, family feed, etc.
- Bark: A smart and proactive parental control app that works on multiple devices and platforms. It offers features such as content filters, activity reports, access control, social media monitoring, email monitoring, text monitoring, etc.
You can compare and choose the best parental control tool for your needs and budget by checking out these resources:
- Best Parental Control Apps 2023: A comprehensive article by Tom’s Guide that reviews and ranks the best parental control apps of 2023 based on various criteria such as features, performance, ease of use, price, etc.
- Parental Control Software Buying Guide: A detailed guide by Consumer Reports that explains what to look for when buying parental control software, such as compatibility, functionality, security, privacy, etc.
- Parental Control Tool Comparison Chart: A handy chart by Common Sense Media that compares the features and prices of different parental control tools in a simple and clear way.
Building Win-Win Compromises
Creating a harmonious balance between video games, social activities, and exercise requires structured planning and adherence. Flexibility and ongoing communication ensure the plan evolves with the child’s needs.
Explain why finding a balance is important for both of you. You can mention the benefits of video games, such as fun, learning, creativity, etc., as well as the benefits of social activities and exercise, such as health, friendship, development, etc. You can also mention the risks or drawbacks of too much or too little of either aspect, such as isolation, obesity, boredom, frustration, etc.
Provide some examples of win-win compromises that can work for different situations or scenarios. For example:
- If your child wants to play video games for longer than you think is healthy or appropriate, you can agree on a time limit that is reasonable for both of you. You can also offer some incentives or rewards for sticking to the limit, such as extra screen time on weekends or holidays, or a special treat or activity that they enjoy.
- If your child prefers to play video games alone or online rather than with their friends or family, you can suggest some ways to incorporate social interaction into their gaming habits. For example, you can invite their friends over for a game night or a LAN party, or join them in playing some multiplayer or co-op games that require teamwork and communication.
- If your child neglects their physical activity or exercise because of their gaming habits, you can encourage them to try some games that involve physical movement or fitness. For example, you can play some motion-controlled games that use sensors or cameras to track your body movements, or some VR games that use headsets or goggles to create an immersive virtual reality experience.
Provide some tips and steps on how to plan and implement the compromise in a structured and consistent way. For example:
- Involve your child in the decision-making process and let them have some input or choice in the compromise. This can make them feel more valued and motivated to follow the agreement.
- Write down the compromise and display it somewhere visible or accessible. This can help you and your child remember and stick to the agreement.
- Set up reminders or alarms to notify you and your child when it’s time to start or stop playing video games or doing other activities. This can help you and your child manage your time better and avoid arguments or conflicts.
- Track your progress and results using charts, graphs, logs, or apps. This can help you and your child see how well you are following the agreement and what changes or improvements you need to make.
Monitoring, Adjusting, and Celebrating Success
Consistent check-ins, adjustments, and celebrating growth keep the plan effective, adaptive, and joyful. Acknowledging successes reinforces positive behavior.
Monitoring the plan involves tracking the child’s screen time, social activities, and exercise, as well as observing their mood, behavior, and performance. Parents can use apps, timers, calendars, or charts to record and visualize the data. They can also ask for feedback from the child, their teachers, their friends, or their coaches.
Adjusting the plan involves reviewing the data and feedback regularly and making changes as needed. Parents can ask themselves and their children questions such as: Is the plan working? Are we meeting our goals? Are we following the rules? Are we happy with the results? What are the challenges or difficulties we are facing? What are the opportunities or improvements we can make? They can also consider external factors that may affect the plan, such as school schedules, holidays, special events, or health issues.
Celebrating success involves recognizing and rewarding the child’s efforts and achievements. Parents can praise their child for following the plan, meeting their goals, or overcoming challenges. They can also offer incentives or rewards that are meaningful and motivating for the child, such as extra screen time, a new game, a family outing, or a special treat.
Parenting Tools and Resources for the Digital Age
- Educational Games: Merge learning with fun to stimulate cognitive development.
- Social Skills Groups: Support social growth through targeted group activities.
- Exercise Through Play: Encourage physical activity that feels playful and engaging.
Educational games are games that have an educational purpose or value. They can help children develop skills such as literacy, numeracy, logic, problem-solving, creativity, or critical thinking. They can also teach children about topics such as history, science, geography, culture, or languages. Some examples of educational games are:
– Minecraft: A sandbox game that allows players to create and explore virtual worlds using blocks.
– BrainPOP: A website that offers animated videos and games on various subjects.
– Duolingo: A language-learning app that teaches users how to read, write, speak, and listen in different languages.
– Math Blaster: A math game that challenges players to solve equations using a blaster.
– Scribblenauts: A puzzle game that lets players create objects by typing words.
Social skills groups are groups that help children improve their social skills through structured activities. Social skills are the skills that enable people to interact effectively with others. They include skills such as communication, cooperation, empathy, self-control, conflict resolution, or assertiveness. Some examples of social skills groups are:
– Social Thinking: A program that teaches children how to think socially and apply social skills in different situations.
– LEGO Therapy: A program that uses LEGO bricks to facilitate social interaction and collaboration among children.
– Superflex: A program that uses a superhero theme to teach children how to cope with social challenges.
– Zones of Regulation: A program that helps children identify and regulate their emotions using colors.
– Social Stories: A method that uses stories to explain social situations and behaviors to children.
Exercise through play is a way of encouraging physical activity that feels fun and enjoyable for children. Physical activity is important for children’s health and well-being. It can help them maintain a healthy lifestyle.
A Balanced Approach to Modern Parenting
If you’re a parent in today’s world, you know how challenging it can be to raise happy and healthy kids who love video games. You want to support their passion, but you also want to make sure they have a balanced and fulfilling life. How can you do that?
Here are some tips to help you navigate the world of modern parenting with empathy, collaboration, and creativity.
– Work with your kids to set clear and realistic expectations and boundaries for their screen time, social activities, and exercise. Don’t just impose rules on them, but involve them in the process and listen to their opinions and preferences. For instance, you can agree on how much time they can play video games per day or week, when they can play, what games they can play, and how they can balance gaming with other responsibilities and interests. You can also discuss how you will track their progress and hold each other accountable.
– Provide choices and alternatives that appeal to your kids’ interests and needs. Don’t just tell them to stop playing video games, but help them find educational games that merge learning with fun, social skills groups that support social growth through targeted group activities, and exercise through play that encourages physical activity that feels playful and engaging. You can also explore other hobbies and passions that your kids may have, such as music, art, sports, or reading.
– Use this guide as a roadmap to negotiate and compromise with your kids who love video games, ensuring a balanced and fulfilling family life. With patience, understanding, and tailored strategies, you can foster a joyful and healthy environment that embraces the digital age.