Do you let your kids play video games? When did you let them start? I experience so much inner push/pull with this topic. I think I have quite an old lady view on this so I’m voicing it here in the hope of finding out how other parents are navigating the world of video game playing with their kids. I suspect that I just have to wise up and get-with-the-times (to use a phrase that makes me sound even more like a Gran). But I’m interested to hear your thoughts.
Ethan is five years old and although he’s had the odd play with kids games on my phone, the first-ever ‘proper’ game we’ve downloaded for him has been Minecraft. He’s allowed to play it on the tablet for about an hour a day, usually a bit in the morning and a bit again while I’m making dinner. Some days not at all and some days well more than an hour, but you get the gist… I’m trying to restrict and monitor his game time.
My brother is a massive advocate of video games for kids and believes it improves kids social skills (being able to relate to other gaming kids), motor skills, problem-solving skills etc. All of which is backed up by this fabulous TED Talk by Jane McGonigal titled “Gaming Can Make a Better World”. We could also delve into the topic of automation of jobs in the future and how the vast majority of the workforce will be in the tech sector. Meaning that the sooner our kids can get comfortable with devices, how they work and engaging with them regularly, the better off they could potentially be in the long run.
But for me, and my inner hippie-commune-dwelling-wannabe, I just struggle with the thought that our kids can and/or should be plugged into devices for large chunks of their time. Living and thriving in little virtual worlds more than the real world. It makes me feel concerned and a little sad. But I think my feelings might be outdated.
I can see Ethan light up when he’s talking about the new things he’s learned and built in Minecraft (motor/problem solving). We’ve spent time looking up recipes for it together online and he talks about it all the time with his friends (bonding/social) so I can see the benefits he gets from it. I’m just hyper-aware that it’s up to me to make sure he spends equally adequate amounts of time out in the street on his bike, with his friends.
As for his friends, they are a mixed bunch of kids, some who get almost zero screen time and other kids who have been allowed to play 18+ rated shoot-em-up games from age 4. Although thankfully they all still socialise in our cul-de-sac, riding bikes and making mud pies in the back garden.
I recently heard a discussion on a phone-in radio show (see… Gran) about the recent Fortnite World Cup. Folk phoned in to argue that we were destined to have slovenly (great word) kids who don’t sleep and stay plugged into games for 16 hours a day. Others were calling in to say that esports athletes are just that, athletes. And that they spend huge amounts of time ensuring that their minds and bodies are well looked after, sharp and ready for their job. So maybe kids treat technology with more respect and boundaries than we give them credit for?
Are you super relaxed about video games and see it as a non-issue? Do you not allow your children to play games at all? Are you flailing somewhere in the middle like me – concerned about monitoring and what’s best for their mental/physical health in this new tech-heavy age?
It would be great to hear how you’re navigating this world with kids of all ages. And what your thoughts/feelings on it are. As you can tell… I’m somewhat conflicted 😬