How to Play and Talk About Video Games with Your Child

Make Screen Time Better

More and more kids are playing video games these days, and research suggests that kids may be learning more than we think from digital play. But are they learning anything useful? Many parents worry their children are spending too much time in front of a screen, when they could be learning or entertaining themselves elsewhere. However, a recent study from Arizona State University suggests parents should do more than worry — they should get involved.

For parents unfamiliar to gaming, jumping into the world of video games with their kids may seem like a daunting task. Today’s games come in a variety of styles, and some are much more difficult than others. So, to help acclimate yourself to your child’s gaming habits, and to initiate a healthy discussion around it, here’s some tips to help get the conversation started.

Tips for Healthy Video Game Play with Your Children:

1.) Watch your children when they are playing games with their friends or siblings.  Then, ask general open-ended questions such as, “What do you learn when you play video games?”

2.) Ask more specific questions such as, “How do you solve problems in video games?”, “How did you overcome obstacles?”, or “How did you learn from making mistakes?” (But make sure you do not interfere with game play!)

3.) Play with your children on a regular basis, even if you are terrible at the game. Ask your children to show you how to improve your play and make comments about what you are learning as you play.

4.) Encourage your children to think about how they can apply skills they use in a video game to  other settings (for instance, while completing school projects or while solving problems with their friends).

5.) Take them shopping with you at stores that sell video games and have them show you which games they enjoy and what they are interested in playing.

6.) Show your children some of your own favorite Internet sites and talk about what you are learning from technology. Then, ask your children which games, apps, and technologies that they have learned the most from and why.

7.) Work jointly with your children to conduct Internet searches in efforts to learn more about specific areas of interest.

8.) Make comments aloud when you feel you have spent too much time surfing the Internet or watching television so that children see the importance of imposing personal limits.  Conduct a family experiment in which individuals log their time spent using digital-media over the course of a week or more.

9.) If they have a cell phone or an iPod, ask them to share some of their favorite apps and games with you. Then play them and ask for help if necessary, or show off your expertise if you are a gamer.

10.) Keep computer and video-game consoles in public areas in your home so you can see children’s patterns of use and you can join them in game play.

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