In our recent studies at LearningWorks For Kids, we have found that approximately 1/3 of parents play video games with their children. This is consistent with previous large scale studies conducted by the Kaiser Foundation and the Pew Internet & American Life Project. While our studies suggest that more than 70% of parents monitor their children’s video game use, we strongly encourage parents to go beyond simply knowing what their kids are doing by getting directly involved with their digital play.
In the pre-digital age parents engaged their kids on the playground or in the family room, where they might play a board game, teach their child to hit a baseball, or work on a puzzle together. In the digital world, where the majority of children are spending more than 7 hours a day involved with digital media, parents need to find ways to engage their kids on smart phones, the Internet, and the family video game consoles. And you can’t just sit on the bench and watch anymore, either. You need to play together in these digital spaces.
If you don’t already have some experience with digital play, here are some recommendations:
- Start with some simple video games that you can easily master. Many short, casual games can be found on mobile devices. Current games that are fun and easy to learn include Angry Birds and Where’s My Water?.
- For older kids, think about playing games on Facebook or other social networks. Games like Farmville and Draw Something are entertaining and easy to engage in.
- Don’t just talk: text. Once your kids get a cell phone it’s imperative that you learn how to communicate with them beyond the kitchen table.
- Get them to teach you how to play one of their favorite games. Not only will you have fun, you will give your child an opportunity to work on their empathy skills when they see how difficult it is for you to learn the game.
- Sit right next to your child when you are playing a console-based game. It just gives you another chance to connect with your kids, and when you’re spending quality time together, it doesn’t really matter what game you are playing.
Featured image: Flickr user Don Lavange