While games are second nature to many children, parents worry about addiction, the negative impact gaming may have on their child’s concentration and fitness and, where in-app purchases are concerned, the amount of money it may cost. But, although research into gaming is still in its infancy, studies show that there are actually lots of positive lessons to be learned from gaming. As well as helping to develop social skills, such as taking turns and collaborating, games can also nurture strategic and conceptual thinking. You just have to set some ground rules.
Manage screen time
Every parent has their own ideas about how much screen time is appropriate for their child. You can measure by hours and minutes, but a better measure for parents is how varied a child’s screen time and interactions are. Ensuring children engage in a variety of activities on their screens instigates regular breaks between sessions and can also create a context for families to play games together. Several apps like Qustodio, NetNanny and Boomerang allow you to set screen time limits.
A sedentary lifestyle is another perceived danger for gaming children. Certainly, youngsters need to engage in a range of activities that don’t all take place indoors. While some games with motion controls build in movement, it’s essential that games form part of a healthy lifestyle. Check out our article on apps that encourage kids to get outside and move around.
Perhaps the biggest difficulty for parents is being an outsider in this crucial part of their children’s leisure time. Even for those who haven’t developed an enjoyment of games growing up, it’s important to find titles they can play with their child. Research the latest games online, or sit with your kids to choose titles you can play together. While you're at it, learn some of the lingo - your kids will probably be delighted to explain their Minecraft mob to mom and dad.
Set parental controls
It’s crucial that you set parental controls on tablets and consoles before putting them in the hands of children. This limits online interactions and sharing as you deem appropriate. You can also disable in-app purchases so you don’t have any surprises in your next bill. It will also allow you to specify what PEGI age-rated games can be played.
Many video games sold in Europe are given a PEGI age rating. If you wouldn’t want your child to watch an 18-rated film, you probably wouldn’t want them to play an 18-rated game. PEGI ratings can actually prevent children accessing age-inappropriate games. You can do this by setting age-appropriate parental controls on your child’s games consoles and devices.
Achieve a healthy balance
Most families have a routine for mealtimes and bedtime, and the same approach can work for game time. Similarly, screen time in the living room may be OK, but not in the bedroom. Depending on your child’s age, you could make these decisions together.
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