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One area of technology that often perplexes parents is the world of video games. If you’re not a gamer, you might feel like it’s all a big mystery. You wish you could ban video games entirely or just stick your head in the sand and let your child lead the way. But if you have a kid who plays video games, you should probably learn a little bit about gaming. To help parents out with this conundrum, we’ve created a handy little guide for non-gaming parents.

Try to play along with them

If you own a smartphone and you’ve played Candy Crush or Words with Friends (or something similar), congratulations — you’ve played a video game! This matters because it might not be such a leap for you and your child to play games together every now and again. A lot of games have options for multiple people to play at the same time.

There is a lot you can learn about your kids by doing something they love alongside them. Ask them questions about the game after you’ve played, like how they felt about having to shoot that alien, or how they got through the challenging sequence when all the turtle shells were coming at them.

And video games may — surprise! — actually HELP kids in school. Of course, your child’s games should be age-appropriate and a time limit should be set so that they have time to do their homework and get some physical exercise, too. But don’t worry, video games aren’t rotting your kids’ minds. Quite the opposite, in fact!

The benefits of gaming

Developmentally, video games can improve your child’s:

  • hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills
  • problem-solving, strategy, planning, decision-making and logic skills
  • ability to set and achieve goals and time management skills

Emotionally, video games may help them feel:

  • less stressed – video games can be a way to manage their mood or ‘let off steam’
  • capable of doing something well – their self-esteem can grow as their skills as a gamer do
  • connected to other people – particularly with online play

Socially, games may help a child:

  • strengthen existing friendships and make new ones – both online and IRL
  • learn to play fairly and take turns
  • feel closer to family and friends – especially when you all play games together

Setting limits

It can be easier to get kids off their consoles if you agree on a time limit at the start of the session. Give them a five-minute warning before the time is up, so they have a chance to save their progress. Be firm, but reasonable: if they really do need just one more minute to finish the match or beat the boss, show magnanimity. For some more tips, read our helpful article on turning screen time into active time.

Spend some time researching the latest titles

Before buying a game, do a Google search for it and read what other parents have to say about it in reviews. Get to know the people who work at your local video game store, if there’s still one in your neighbourhood. Be friendly with them, ask them questions, and let them know what you’re looking for. Ask them if they would play it themselves, or let their own kid play. Most employees at video game stores are used to answering questions about games and like to discuss them.

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