At Cheley we have a commitment to continuing education and to partnering with parents in raising their children. When we can, we like to share our collective learning experiences. We absolutely believe in what we do, and the fact that we give kids the gift of unplugging from technology so they can connect with their peers on a deeper level is incredible in this day and age. Providing an environment for meaningful, lasting relationships might be one of the things that we do best. Last month, I was fortunate to have attended the American Counseling Association’s National Conference. It was an incredible professional development experience as 1077 professionals in the counseling field presented over 600 sessions on various mental health and counseling related topics. One of my favorite sessions was a five-hour pre-conference session titled “How to Talk So Gamers Will Listen and Listen So Gamers Will Talk.” The speaker was Dr. Terry Kottman, a therapist and a mother of a gamer, who is uniquely qualified in this area. Her teenage son joined us via Skype as well. While the jury is still out as to the positive impacts versus the negative when it comes to video games and gaming, one thing is clear- set expectations for video game use will make a difference in the long run as to whether video games end up running yours and their life.
Before I give some tips when it comes to setting boundaries with your kids, here are some interesting statistics:
- 1.2 billion people worldwide play video games
- 155 million Americans regularly play video games
- The average game player age is 35
- 57% are male and 43% are female
- More than 90% of US children play video games
- Among youth 12-17 years old, 97% play video games
- 71% of parents say video games positively impact their child’s life
- 67% of parents play video games with their child at least once weekly
- The idea that violent video games create violent kids is seen as a myth and the research study has been called into question as to its validity
With over 25 different gaming genres out there, there’s virtually a game for everyone. While there might be a game for everyone, not every game should be played by everyone. As most parents are aware, The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) has a rating on the front of each box with the recommended age for that game. It’s important for parents to be in the know about the types of games their kids are playing and with whom. With so many opportunities for kids to play against others online, it may not be readily apparent as to who they are exactly playing. Near the ESRB rating, in a small box, there is information regarding whether your child can have unmonitored interaction with other people who are playing the same game, whether it shares your child’s location with others, and whether it shares information about your child with third parties.
Tips for parents about video games
Before buying a game.
- Check the rating summary on the ESRB’s website, read reviews of the game, and watch “Let’s Plays” or “Walk Throughs” of the game on YouTube. Both of these can give you a look and feel for the game as it shows clips of others actually playing the game while commenting on what they are doing.
- Have honest conversations about why it’s important to limit their use.
- Some kids have a hard time stopping and/or controlling their length of play
- Too much use can impact other areas of their life and other things they enjoy
- Show them that real life experiences and social interactions are fulfilling and rewarding by getting them involved in other things at an early age i.e. sports, arts, dance, camp, etc.
- Set limits as to the amount of time your child gets to play video games and/or identify when/how they earn the opportunity to play.
- Model limited use of electronics yourself! And, from all electronics, your phone included.
- Store electronics in a central area away from bedrooms. Again, this goes for parents too!
- Have family “No Electronics” days where the entire family does something without electronics, like play board games, go to the park, go for walks, etc.
- Make dinners (or all meal times) technology-free.
- Play age-appropriate video games with your child.
- Have conversations with your child about the video games they play. Be interested in what they like and don’t like about it. Also, require conversation about other topics as well.
- Monitor your child’s emotional reactions while playing. If a game is extremely frustrating for your child, if they are clearly agitated, or if they are feeling aggressive, have them take a break from playing.
- Monitor multiplayer options and player generated content, as well as ads that can contain malware.
- Use parental controls (when available) to limit the games your child is allowed to play, online purchases, time spent in game play, and access to multiplayer gaming and chatting.
It’s true at camp, home, and even when it comes to gaming, kids want us to create safe space for them. They thrive in environments with structure. The structure and expectations set for them shows them that you care. Like the video games themselves… it’s important that they know the “Rules of the Game” as to your expectations for gaming. We pride ourselves on developing healthy, young adults- not just during the summer, but throughout the year. The old saying is true for video gaming as well, “too much of anything can be a bad thing.” Gaming, technology, and kids are best when managed with clear boundaries and set expectations. If you have any questions please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are wanting more information on video game use in the United States, The Entertainment Software Association just this week released their “2017 Essential Facts about the Computer and Video Gaming Industry.” This annual report covers sales, demographics, and usage in the U.S. For the press release go to: http://www.theesa.com/article/two-thirds-american-households-regularly-play-video-games/. For the full report go to: http://essentialfacts.theesa.com/mobile/
Kottman, Terry T. “How To Talk So Gamers Will Listen And Listen So Gamers Will Talk.” American Counseling Association National Conference, 15 March 2017, Marconi Convention Center, San Francisco, CA. Pre-Conference Learning Institute.
By Shawn Ness- Director of Operations.