Caught in the middle of deciding whether video gaming is beneficial or harmful to their children, parents very often feel they are left with one of two options: be destructively permissive of their children’s gaming or place harsh restrictions on it. But lately, many have started asking the question Do video games bring families together?
Here’s what I learned:
Despite long-standing debates about whether or not kids should be allowed to play video games, a recent study by Arizona State University confirmed that it is beneficial not only for children to play video games, but also for parents to do it with them, bringing families closer in the process.
This is the sad reality for many parents today, and the multitudes of video game-condemning articles, books, and media have not made the situation any better.
Turning your back on your children’s gaming life and having nothing to do with it is an easy but possibly neglectful thing to do.
One of the reasons why indifference to your child’s gaming life is harmful to them is that the content of the games with which they are engaged may be inappropriate for their age or developmental stage, and can, therefore, harm them severely.
On the other hand, stopping your child from playing video games is not a viable solution for most families.
Further, you wouldn’t want to as some games are sufficiently educational, and have some potential to stimulate children’s cognitive and intellectual capacity. So, what exactly should you do about your child’s gaming? Simple – Join them!
Why Parents Should Play Video Games with Their Children
We’ve all heard the long-standing debates about whether or not children should be allowed to play video games. But as I mentioned above, experts have confirmed that it is beneficial not only for children to engage in gaming but also for parents to participate in gaming with their children (source).
A significant benefit of playing video games with your children is that it allows you to explain complex concepts to them, as well as ward off negative messages.
This applies especially to younger children, who are more easily influenced by media.
Another benefit of co-playing video games with your kids is that it encourages family bonding; it gets you closer to them and in the process may open up a panacea for learning behaviors and attitudes in your children of which you were hitherto ignorant.
Aside from the reasons stated above, video games benefit children in many other ways. Here are five ways video games benefit your kids:
Video games may improve your kids’ problem-solving skills
Prudently crafted video games can be beneficial to your child’s intellectual and cognitive capacity, as they elicit thinking and application of creativity. Some video games are specially made for learning, and so are mainly made to improve your child’s reasoning and reaction.
Even the generic video games require that players think logically and respond quickly and effectively. This is in contrast to many TV shows today, which, quite unfortunately, turns children into passive consumers.
Video games may improve your child’s sociability
Over the years, mainstream media outlets have stereotyped gaming as an evil, time-consuming endeavor that keeps kids glued to a screen in a dark room.
Nothing can be further from the truth.
Many developers nowadays incorporate a ‘community’ platform into their video games, on which players can connect and interact. Parents should always monitor their child’s engagement in any online community.
Video games can provide positive feedback
In most video games, players are rewarded for completing tasks or acquiring skills, accompanied by little to no punishment for failing.
This offers reinforcement for children and allows them to tackle challenges without the fear of failure. They could apply this learned behavior in real-life situations to significant effect.
Video games may inculcate strategic thinking in children
Video games encourage children to assess their performance objectively and accurately and make them realize their strengths and weaknesses.
By knowing what they can do and what they struggle at, they can build on their strengths while bolstering their weak points.
Video games can facilitate rapport building and teamwork
Most modern video games are made with a co-op (co-operative) option; this means two or more players can play on a side against an opponent or a group of opponents.
This enables children to ward off alien invaders, solve puzzles, and score goals collaboratively. Few things can build rapport and teamwork in children as well as this.
All of these benefits are reasonably strong arguments for why you should allow your children to play video games.
However, over-indulgence in video games can have deleterious effects on their development. It can negatively affect their attention spans in other areas of their lives, such as education, and could be addictive.
Additionally, there’s evidence to prove that gaming can impact negatively on your child’s cognitive and emotional prowess (Source).
Therefore, you must aim to strike a balance between letting your children play video games and preventing the adverse effects that can result from it.
To achieve this, you need to place restrictions of gaming and make sure they are followed to the letter. Experts recommend that you place electronic, internet-based, physical, and time restrictions, as well as using filters.
You can place electronic restrictions on gaming devices, such as a tablet, gaming console, and smartphones.
This is usually done by toggling on the parental feature that comes with these devices.
By applying parental control, you may be able to put a restriction on the gaming content your child is exposed to, to ensure that they are engaging in what is appropriate for their age and developmental stage.
Internet-based limits can be quite handy too.
It is usually employed to limit the time your child can spend playing video games. You could, for instance, configure your internet router to switch off internet connection after a preset time limit, or after a preset data limit has been reached.
Physically, you could remove a gaming device your child is playing video games on if you feel they’ve had enough and have to take a break. This shouldn’t be very difficult to do.
Using schedules to limit gaming is an old but rarely used way of restricting children’s gaming.
You can design a gaming schedule in such a way that it stipulates the exact times of the day and days of the week that your child can play video games.
You must make sure that they stick to this schedule by making them sign an agreement between you both that whenever they exceed the set time limit for playing, the extra time would be deducted from their next playing session.
Make this agreement bold and colorful and stick on the refrigerator or any other place where it can be easily accessible.
Other than using restrictions, you can use filters to control the gaming content your children are exposed to.
You can choose from tons of filters available on the internet to restrict your child’s gaming across almost all gaming platforms.
Bonding with Children through Videogames
There have been several assertions from videogame enthusiasts that gaming, when engaged in together, can massively improve relationships between family members.
These assertions, however, have been primarily based on logic and experience, and not empirical evidence. This means there were opportunities for videogame haters to criticize and shun them – and they did just that.
Fortunately, there have been scientific findings to back the legitimate claims that games can indeed make families connect.
A research article published in 2018 found that gaming had a positive impact on the closeness of family members (source).
The research took data from a total of 361 parents who were recruited from Amazon Turk and concluded that though gaming benefits families of all kinds, families who have poor communication can benefit more from gaming than those with effective communication.
Another study, published in the journal of adolescent health in 2010, found that co-playing videogames resulted in heightened closeness between parents and children (source).
The study, which was conducted on 287 adolescents and their parents, collected data from participants by asking them to complete multifaceted questionnaires on:
- Gaming habits
- Family issues
The results showed that though gaming solo can pose adverse effects such as aggressiveness and internalizing, co-playing videogames with parents can affect children’s psychosocial condition positively.
One way you can use the power of gaming to connect with your child is to discuss the “more serious” matters with them over a gaming session.
For instance, while shooting off alien invaders from distant planets alongside your son, you could use that opportunity to tell him it’s alright to shoot evil aliens in a game but violence in real life is never OK.
You can go on to and engage them in discussions about how to and how not to treat people, and by so doing boost their emotional intelligence.
Among gaming consoles used by families to co-play games, the Nintendo Wii tends to stand out as the most preferred by families who play together.
They offer a wide range of video games to suit diverse age groups as well as games that encourage inter-generational engagement.
Aside the Mario series that can roll fun into the family anytime, also available on the Wii platform is four-player sports games, such as the Wii Sports series, with which you can enjoy the thrill of playing golf, tennis, and bowling as a family.
However, notwithstanding the game console you purchase for your kids, if you’re not playing with them, there would always be untapped potential and available opportunities to bond with them.
Though the generally preferred console for family use is the Wii series, you can achieve similar results with other gaming consoles, as long as the all-important ingredient is present: playing with your children.
When you play with your children, you make them feel that what they are doing is important to you and is worthy of your time.
This creates a positive feedback mechanism – your children become more willing to listen to whatever it is you have to say because you are closer to them while spending time together.
Gaming can also prove massively useful in bonding with older children who might have begun to pull away from their parents and gradually assert their independence (this happens a lot with children in middle school).
These children find it exceedingly difficult to keep close to family and are often found resorting to loneliness. Video games can help create a decent atmosphere for conversations.
If you find it challenging to get them to play video games with you, try opening a discussion about the games they love.
You can use this to secure a solid foundation on which you can build other conversations. If you are lucky to get time playing with them, jump right in, and take full advantage.
You can also make use of impact guides to help you better communicate with your child while co-playing video games and take full advantage of gaming time with them.
You can get these impact guides from the Center for Games & Impact.
To optimize the bonding process with your child, ensure to encourage them to play educational games, or at the very least, games that come with moral or educational perks.
There are tons of titles to choose from on the web and in local game stores, and for the various gaming consoles available.
A word of caution, though: Do not rely solely on the official ratings on games. Check for yourself.
Just as you sometimes watch a movie with your children and ask yourself how on earth it got the rating it has, there are tons of games out there with somewhat inappropriate ratings.
Make sure gaming content is appropriate for your child by playing the game yourself.
Videogames as a means of Improving Relationships between Siblings
Nothing brings children together like video games.
You don’t need research and scientific assertions to prove that to you; take a seat the next time your kids are co-playing their favorite shooter game and revel in the bliss of seeing them come together to fashion a plan to take out an incoming enemy tank.
It is truly heartwarming to see them strategize together, scream joyfully at each other’s faces when they succeed, and bemoan their failures at hitting a target.
In case you are still in need of solid proof to cement how you feel about your children playing, here it is: an article published in the journal of adolescence confirmed that children of both genders who played video games together showed high levels of sibling affection (source).
The study comprised of over 500 children who answered questions regarding how long they played video games, the content of the video games they played, how often they played these games with their siblings, and the quality of their relationships with their siblings.
Of all the participants, 57 percent of boys and 51 percent of girls stated that they played video games with their siblings.
A quite surprising outcome of this study was that of the male children surveyed, the ones who played violent video games with their brothers showed a high level of understanding and less conflict in relationships with their brothers.
In general, when siblings play video games together (whether in cooperation to fight off a common ‘enemy’ or in competition against each other), they bond and develop vital skills, such as teamwork and camaraderie, which they can use later in real life situations.
Videogames can Promote Bonding between Couples
It is sadly true that many adults think of video games as playthings for children.
Some women have described gaming as a male thing, and have therefore resorted to never trying it out, despite reports that women gamers have grown and outnumbered their male counterparts in recent years (source).
However, an increasing number of adults think that video games are as vital for them as they are for kids, as they have an inherent potential to develop specific areas of mental health.
Many people who have introduced gaming into their lives and relationships have admitted how much positive effect it has had on them and their love life.
Here are some positives you can get from introducing gaming into your relationship:
• Video games can bring you closer to your partner.
Just as any other activity, such as watching TV, can bring about togetherness with your partner, gaming can elicit emotions that make you more comfortable with your partner and want to spend more time with them.
You may communicate certain things with your spouse better in a relaxed atmosphere.
That’s the sort of atmosphere that gaming creates.
• Gaming creates a sense of common purpose and develops teamwork.
When you play together as a team, you have an opportunity to plan and execute in unison.
The success of those plans gives a certain feeling of elation that few other things can bring.
When you fail to achieve your common goal, you are presented with an opportunity to work together to devise better plans. Either way, you would be developing the very vital skill of teamwork as a couple.
• You learn to look at problems differently.
Video games are rife with challenges; therefore, to succeed in one means solving tons of problems one at a time.
When you problem-solve together in video games, you unconsciously develop a habit of looking at problems (even in real life) as solvable puzzles rather than immovable blockades.
It’s pretty evident now that video games are going nowhere; they’re here to stay.
Although they have been demonized and its players have been unfairly stereotyped, video games have been proven through scientific research to be of use in developing essential skills, creating happy atmospheres, and improving bonding within families.
In light of this, you should consider the endeavor to use gaming to improve the connection with your family by taking the lessons you’ve learned here.
If you are looking for some ideas for games to get started, check out this article I wrote for you.