Do Your Children Play Video Games?

Parents often feel guilty about how much time their kids spend playing video games and they sometimes have questions about whether their kids should play them at all. When I speak on issues related to families and technology I’m always asked to addresses kids and their games. I take a shot at doing that here.

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Over the last few weeks, I’ve had a bunch of opportunities to speak to groups of people about the intersection of family and technology. Especially Christian family and digital technology. When I do that one of the questions that almost always comes up concerns children and video games, teenagers and video games. How can we as parents monitor what our kids are doing? How can we know what games are good? Are games worthy of any of their time at all? So I thought I would address that. In this brief video, let’s talk about our kids, our teens, and their video games.

So just the first thing we ought to say about our children and gaming is that the Bible doesn’t demand they do it, the Bible doesn’t demand they don’t do it. That means it’s an issue of wisdom, right. And different families will come to different conclusions, both in terms of whether their children can do it and how much their children can do it. That’s a freedom we have from family to family. So, I think it makes sense, evaluate it scripturally and realize this is, as far as I can tell, a legitimate hobby. And, you know, don’t become too cocky that your kids want to play games. Really one of the big growing demographics for gaming is adults, even up to senior citizens. There’s more and more games being really marketed to adults. Just fun games, things that are … Through Facebook and through mobile phones, etcetera. So gaming really has gone mainstream in a whole new way.

So, what should you be thinking about? First, I would be, as much as you can be, very aware of what your children are playing, the specific games, and the category of games. And a good way to do that is to read reviews. Why don’t you go to Commonsensemedia where you can find out, here’s what the game is, here’s what it’s about, here’s some of the concerns you may want to have. Perhaps some of the objectionable content you might find in it. Pluggedin run by, I believe, Focus on the Family is another very, very good site that offers reviews of games like that.

Then I’d also distinguish between what I consider solo games and social games. Solo games, games you just play by yourself, it’s just you against the computer, and there’s time for that. But then there’s social games as well, which with our kids, we’ve seen have been very, very popular. And so you’ll have kids getting together, sometimes online through headsets and stuff, but sometimes actually getting together in physical space and playing together. Well, that makes computer gaming social, which I think is okay and adds a neat dimension to it. So, generally, we’re glad, have your friends over, play games here. That’s great, that should be fun for you, we’re glad to know what you’re doing, glad to oversee it.

Another thing you want to do is to be sure you’re assigning time for your children. And so if they’re playing online games you can use something like the Circle device. It will track what your kids are doing and assign a block of time. Once the time is over they can’t play anymore. That can be a very, very helpful thing. If they’re playing games that don’t involve the internet, the Circle won’t help you but do keep an eye on the amount of time. These games are designed to be captivating, they’re designed to draw you in and keep drawing you in, that one more turn, one more click, one more level factor is part of what makes gaming so enjoyable. So do be aware of that. Children can very easily, teens can very easily dedicate far, far too much time to these things. Be sure to parent them, right. You’re the parent, it’s your house, it’s your rules, it’s your internet connection. Be sure to lead your children.

And I think one of the things you can do as a parent is to join your kids, play some games with them, right. This can be a fun form of interaction. Sit with them, get out the Playstation, whatever it is. Play some games, sit on the computer together, whatever the devices are, and find out what is it they enjoy about this game. Maybe we can play this together and make it a fun form of bonding together.

I guess the last thing I’d want to say is that do be aware that gaming is something of a sub-culture, maybe more so now than ever, which means if kids are playing games they’re probably going on Youtube and watching games. This is a strange phenomenon, that young kids especially, will go onto YouTube and watch hours of other people playing games. So, that gaming desire, that gaming fun they have, it may not just be gaming, it might be watching gaming as well. Again, it seems odd, but there’s a very, very big sub-culture. Some people are on every day recording themselves playing games, kids love to watch it. So, do be aware of that and some of those people are okay role models, some of them you probably don’t want your kids watching. So, do be aware of that.

As I wrap up, again, I think gaming is a legitimate hobby for children and adults alike. I also know it’s a very captivating hobby, and so it makes very good sense, it’s very wise parenting, very wise self-control to be aware of how much time is dedicated to it. To enjoy it, like all things, in moderation. Hope that helps a little, we’ll see you again soon.