Why Video Games Can Be Good For Kids

by Andrea Benton

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If you were like my family this holiday season, you probably purchased some type of video gaming system - which means now is a great opportunity to start a dialogue on video games.

Parents often wonder “Will my child play too much? Are video games really bad for my kid?” With this is mind, here are my experiences and guidelines on some genres of video games.

1. These games force you to think differently.

I married a software developer, who played the game Civilization into the wee hours of the morning early in our relationship. Did it help him? Absolutely - in Civ you have to strategize, figure out ways to keep your civilization going and how to conquer other civilizations. Playing Civ helped him at his current job. He’s able to think and see outcomes four or five steps ahead and he did not learn that at any post- secondary institution.

2. Real life game situations are just as valuable as classroom learning.

Consider this quote from John Seely Brown, a prominent big thinker - “I would rather hire a high-level World of Warcraft (WOW) player than an MBA from Harvard.” It says a lot. My hubby has also played WOW and again while playing the game he was developing alliances with people, problem solving and strategizing how to best defeat the bad guys. All of these are important real world skills.

3. Parents have to be engaged with the games kids play.

Recently, Dean Groom, specifically wrote an article about Minecraft and how it isn’t addictive but good for kids. I agree. Like Dean, I advocate that if your kid is playing a game, any game, you have to learn about it. It’s a necessity. You need to be able to have a conversation about the game. Find out what they like about it and what they are experiencing.

Since we got Skylander Giants for our kids, I’ve been playing it with my son. He loves it that we play together. And it’s cute when he says “Mom, I just leveled up Jet-Vac to level 8”. We are connecting. (I realize this won’t last but for now, we’ve bonded.) Too often, parents let their kids get involved in something and then when things get out of hand they are caught unaware. You can’t help your kids if you don’t know what is going on.

4. Set realistic limitations.

Another benefit of playing your child’s games is that you are able to set reasonable limitations. For example if your child is about to level up and you know it takes 1 hour and dinner is in 30 minutes then leveling up prior to dinner isn’t the best choice.

5. Try not to get annoyed.

I know lots of parents who get frustrated by the amount of time their kids play these sorts of games. The key is to accept that these are the activities kids do today and set realistic limitations (see above.) When I was growing up, it was all about TV. How much TV did I watch as a kid? Way too much and I’m okay. I know it is tough for parents to accept but there will always be a new technological activity which draws kids in. As parents, we have to develop skills to manage their technological interests. (Fun – another skill to add to the list!)

Do you have any parenting strategies for games such as Minecraft of Skylander? Let me know at weeboot@gmail.com or on Twitter @weebootMom.

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