Digital parenting tips: How to keep your kids safe while they play
The $200 billion gaming business is bigger than the music, film and TV industries combined.
DALLAS – Recent studies show that children are spending more time playing than ever.
Children between the ages of 5 and 8 spend about 40 minutes a day playing some kind of video game. And children over 8 years old play for almost an hour and a half. If today’s digital parents think games are everywhere, they might be right.
“It’s become one of those activities that everyone does, even if they say they don’t,” said Jeff Haynes, video game editor for Common Sense Media. “Chances are they’re gambling. In fact, playing games itself is a human activity. Gambling itself isn’t a bad thing – it’s just in how you end up playing games. TO DO.”
Haynes’ work is to help parents make informed decisions about the games children today play. Common Sense Media provides reviews and information on a wide variety of content available to children, including video games. Their work highlights not only an overall rating for a specific game, but whether or not that title includes adult language, excessive violence, commercialization, or even positive role models.
It’s a useful tool for parents trying to keep tabs on what their kids are playing and how much time they spend playing. Although Haynes is quick to point out that it’s not the quantity of time spent playing, but the quality.
“There’s nothing wrong with having the option to play a game, especially if you’ve done your homework or chores, as a way to unwind,” he said. “Everyone has to do it. Playing games is a human activity.”
Game advocates will say the industry is in bad shape. That many games are educational and can help children learn important life skills.
Haynes said it’s important to remember that just like sports or even simple board games, video games can be a productive and useful endeavor for relaxing, bonding with friends or even just blowing off steam. .
But he said parents should worry when a child elevates play above everything else in life, neglecting school work, household chores and other responsibilities. And it’s also a red flag if a child suddenly becomes secretive about their play habits, hiding things from mom or dad.
Another concern for parents – the chat functionality built into many games today. Often, the person on the other end of that chat is anonymous. Which means parents don’t always know who their child is talking to or what they’re talking about. Haynes recommends disabling chat features if a parent is uncomfortable.
And like many parents, Haynes said the most important advice he has for parents is the most common: talk with your kids. Or better yet, join the game with them.
“Just sit back and ask yourself what you like about this title, this genre, this particular experience,” Haynes said. “Ask their child what they like, why they like it. And then you have this shared experience that you can talk about.”
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