When you become a parent, you have to get used to being judged. You’ll be judged by friends and family, by other parents, and by total strangers. And one of the things you’ll be judged for is letting your kids play video games. If you play games yourself, you may already know how great video games can be—for learning, for socializing, and for having fun. But people who don’t play video games don’t understand any of this. When you run into misinformation, it may be up to you as a well-informed parent to tell them where they went wrong. Here here are eight ideas to get you started.
1. Almost all kids play video games.
Okay, maybe this isn’t the best justification. You can hear your mother’s voice right now: “If everyone jumped off the cliff, would you go too?” No, Mom. But when you look at the figures, you have to admit there’s something important going on here. More than 95% of kids play video games. Don’t you have to ask yourself why that is? They’re fun, of course, but I think video games have become the entertainment medium of choice for the younger generations, just as TV and movies and comics were the media of choice for generations that came before. And there are a lot of parents out there who think video games are better for kids than TV because video games engage the mind and teach kids things. Here’s Eric Jordan summing all of this up for us in a recent TEDx talk:
2. Games improve sociability.
Folks living in the dark ages before the internets and online gaming still think gamers play alone. We know that’s completely wrong. Not only do people play games online with old and new friends, they also play games together on the couch. Most games these days rely heavily on sociability of one kind or another. And studies show that kids who play games online have more diverse friendships. Games have also been proven to help kids who have trouble being social. Check out these articles that cover a bunch of ways games contribute to sociability:
- 3 Ideas To Help You Feel Better About Kids and Screens (Pixelkin)
- APA Says Video Games Are Beneficial (Pixelkin)
- Video Games May Enhance Social Skills for Autistic Youth (Psych Central)
- The Social Side of Gaming: How Playing Computer Games Helps Create Online and Offline Social Support (ScienceDirect)
- Pew Survey of Teens Illuminates Digital Friendships (Pixelkin)
3. Games can reduce stress.
Lots of people use video gaming to decompress after a hard day at work or school. And now there are games that are specifically designed to help you relax, de-stress, and meditate. Here’s a popular post by Keezy Young that rounds up eight good games for stress relief.
4. Games do not cause violent behavior.
Reputable scholars and the Supreme Court agree: there is no credible evidence that video games cause violent behavior. In fact, as the popularity of video games has risen, violent crime rates have gone down. There are many explanations for that correlation, and the causes of violence are complex, but the bottom line is that there’s little or no evidence that video games increase crime. If you study up on video game and violence, you’ll find that games, like movies, have all types and levels of violence in them, and parents should spend time understanding whether a particular game is appropriate for the age and maturity of their particular kids. But blaming video games for violence is not a smart way to go.
5. Game addiction is rare.
While too much screen time is bad for anyone, true addiction to gaming is considered a rare disorder. Parents should monitor screen time and make sure kids are getting a healthy balance of different kinds of activities. But they shouldn’t panic if their kids like to play video games. Check out these articles about regulating screen time and gaming.
6. Video games can be enormously effective learning tools.
There’s so much research on this it’ll make your head explode. Education expert Professor James Paul Gee has written extensively on the educational uses of video games. So has Professor Mimi Ito. In fact, there are charitable foundations (like MacArthur) that devote huge amounts of time and money to exploring and exploiting the potential of video games to educate. And of course Jane McGonigal, in her fantastic TED talks, makes a great case for the many learning benefits video games. Check this out (and then send the link to all the judgmental parents you meet):
7. You can make millions as a professional gamer.
Okay, this isn’t a good justification, really, but it’s interesting. Like other professional sports, esports like the League of Legends Championship Series and the Dota 2 – The International, net millions of dollars in prizes for the best players. Of course, it’s really difficult to become a money-earning pro gamer. But professional gaming is another sign that video games are now a mainstream thing.
8. Games can bring families together.
Well, here it is—the best reason of all. When parents play with their kids, magic happens. Besides providing a ton of fun for families, games give parents a way to relate to kids. You can use game content to spark conversations with kids about all kinds of issues—from violence to sex and gender roles. There are so many games out there, you can find one that appeals to just about any passion, and games can feed an interest in math, science, language, history, and programming—especially programming. Here’s some more ammunition. Go get ’em!
- Why Parents Should Be Playing Video Games With Kids (Pixelkin and Learning Works for Kids)
- 5 Reasons You Must Play Video Games With Your Kids (Pixelkin)
- Should Parents Play Video Games With Their Children? (Wall Street Journal)
- Research Says Parents and Kids Should Play Games Together (Forbes)