How and when to introduce your children to gaming is a question often asked by parents, especially those who do not play games themselves. Many are worried about lengthy exposure to screens, as well as potential video game addiction. While these are valid concerns, gaming also has huge benefits for your child, as long as it's properly monitored and controlled. So how can you make sure you get the balance right?
The Right Age
When it comes to the right age to introduce your child to gaming there really isn’t a straightforward answer. Children of all ages can benefit from the pastime, as long as the games are age appropriate.
If you’re happy to let your child watch TV, then gaming is really no different. In fact, gaming can actually keep children more engaged, as they will need to respond and react to the game in order to play. Some games even involve physical activity, where players must move themselves in order to move the characters on screen.
If you choose your game library wisely then you can also educate as well as entertain, something which is worth remembering when you’re considering the question.
For many children mobile games are their first introduction to gaming. This is because most parents have mobile phones and handing over the phone with a child friendly game open is an easy source of entertainment.
Many mobile games are also free, meaning no money to lose if they hate the game, simply jump into the app store and download a new one.
This has both advantages and disadvantages. While it is cheap and easy to entertain your child with mobile games, in-app purchases can be a huge issue.
The Dangers Of Mobile Gaming
Free apps make their money with micro transactions. These usually take the form of an in-game currency purchased from within the game, which is used to speed up progress. Paying to skip obstacles or make the game easier can add up fast and become addictive, something parents need to be aware of.
In-app purchases have been heavily criticized, but you can restrict their use by setting up your phone to prevent them. If you’re unsure how to do this, here are instructions on how to disable in-app purchases for iOS and Android.
As with so many things in life, mobile gaming can be addictive but it isn’t just restricted to gaming. Cell phone use is addictive in general and can be an issue, but it’s something all ages need to be aware of, not just kids.
Restricting Screen Time The Right Way
As with most things in life, moderation is important. Restricting screen time can be a good way to ensure a balance and this is often a good alternative to a straight out ban, especially as children get older. Just be aware that games are not always as easy to turn off with no warning as TV shows are.
Giving your child a warning shortly before you want them to stop can help. Asking them to complete the level, get to the next save point or finish their round, shows them you understand that it’s frustrating to be forced to turn off mid game.
By allowing them time to save their progress before they switch off, you will help reduce any frustration.
Try and think of it as letting them finish the end of a movie, or an episode of a TV show.
As children get older there can be much more pressure from friends to join in, especially with gaming. The recent craze is Fortnite but often popular games go in cycles. Sometimes they will be appropriate for all ages and other times they may not be.
The best way to approach your child asking to play games "everyone else is playing" is finding out more about them. A great resource for this is the Common Sense Media website.
Common Sense Media has a huge database of Movies, TV Shows, Books, Apps and Games. Each one has a breakdown of the game's age rating as well as the actual content. It includes information such as any violence, bad language, or adult references as well as highlighting ease of play and positive messages.
You can use this to discover more about different games and choose titles which you feel best suited to your child’s age, abilities and disposition.
At the end of the day you know your child best. If they want to game it doesn’t mean you hand them a console and let them choose. Do the research. There are so many games available that it’s easy to find something to suit every taste and requirement.
It’s also worth checking out the online capabilities of any games your child plays. Some contain open voice or text communication, which may or may not be mutable. You should also check if your child is using a character or username which highlights personal details.
They key is not to restrict entirely but instead to research and find the best and safest way for your child to enjoy gaming. Make sure you talk to them about online safety and what to do if they encounter anything unpleasant. Your child needs to know they can come to you if there are issues.
The Positives of Gaming
Gaming can have so many benefits for all ages. Games can encourage creativity, different ways of thinking and even physical fitness. They can help children learn to make decisions, improve focus, explore new things, and even improve their hand-eye coordination.
There’s no right or wrong answer to what age a child "should" start gaming. If your child wants to game, explore the options. If you don’t feel that certain games are appropriate then that’s fine but don’t dismiss all games. See if you can find something mutually agreeable and let them reap the benefits. It will be worth it.
This article was inspired by Quora. Click here to see the original question.