Many children love video games, and many parents love telling children to stop playing them. But gaming can provide a range of social and mental wellbeing benefits for kids of all ages.
Although research in the industry is still in its infancy, studies show that there are lots of advantages to be gained from gaming. As well as helping to develop social skills, such as taking turns and collaborating, games can also nurture strategic and conceptual thinking that can prove valuable in later life. Of course there are downsides that can negatively impact your children or put them at risk, and these are the things that parents need to be aware of.
Here’s what you should do to make sure your children get the most out of their gaming…
Make sure games are age-appropriate
In order for gaming to be healthy, it’s important to make sure you’re happy that the content in each game is appropriate for your child’s age. The statutory PEGI rating system is a useful tool when identifying whether a game is suitable or not.
Let’s say your child is particularly sensitive to violence or horror, for example. The PEGI signs at the back of each game cover will make it clear what it contains, making it easy to weed out any games that might not be appropriate.
Set up parental controls
A good way to ensure your child is not viewing inappropriate content, or spending too much time playing and making in-game purchases, is to activate parental controls – these are offered by all of the big video games consoles. They can really help avoid any nasty surprises on your next bank statement and work wonders for your own peace of mind.
You can also make sure any content deemed inappropriate is hidden, and can only be accessed by a password or PIN (which you set yourself). If you do activate these controls, it’s important to explain to your child why to avoid any frustration or arguments.
Ensure regular breaks
Screen time studies vary from one source to the next, but all agree that regular breaks are essential. Ideally all gamers should be taking breaks every 45 minutes to one hour. The blue lights from the screen can cause fatigue and sore eyes if the gaming session is not broken up into intervals with short breaks in between.
If your TV/monitor/screen supports it, the best thing is to activate the blue light filter which emphasises the screen’s warmer colours and reduces eye strain.
Picking up the controller and playing video games with your child is a great way of promoting healthy gaming habits. There are lots of fun, age-appropriate games out there that the whole family can join in with, and many are also very educational.
Also, try to keep games consoles in communal areas. If a child has entertainment systems or tablets in their room, it’s much harder to monitor what is going on and makes gaming much less sociable.
Five ways gaming can be beneficial for children
1. Games can nurture strategic thinking through puzzle solving.
2. Playing alongside others online or locally can improve social, communicative and sharing skills.
3. Playing games can be a great way for a family to bond and spend quality time together.
4. They can make children better decision makers, as fast-paced games often require players to act quickly.
5. Some games can even help your child to stay active by incorporating physical activity into what’s happening on-screen.
Find out more about the PEGI rating system for games by visiting the PEGI website
This article is by Parent Zone, the experts in digital life.