How do your kids spend their spare time?
If you’re like many of us, the answer will include some form of video gaming.
According to a 2011 survey by market research company NPD Group, 91% of American children aged 2-17 play video games (both console and portable), amounting to a group of 64 million kids that have the gaming bug. While this statistic may or may not be alarming, depending on whichever side of the fence you sit, it’s food for thought nonetheless.
The pervasive nature of digital technology in the lives of our children is not something that can be ignored. The lure of the latest game for the Wii or Xbox, or the appeal of the iPad in providing countless hours of entertainment is more than compelling for many kids. Add peer pressure, advertising and a lot of free time and you have all the makings of a wired generation. And then some.
While there are pros and cons to whether or not children should partake in this form of entertainment, the discussion for many parents is moot. The reality is that gaming is just that – a reality – for the millions of kids who get their daily kick from the myriad of gaming options that exist. Whether its on a Nintendo DS, an iPad or Xbox, the cumulative effect is the same: it’s entertainment, 21st century style.
Parents have so much more to consider these days. Gone are the days of Gilligan’s Island and a good old-fashioned game of Monopoly as engaging forms of entertainment. Many families may still partake of these pursuits to some degree, but there’s no denying that, for the most part, digital is where it’s at. That being said, many moms and dads are struggling to find that fine balance between acceptable video play time and over use. As well, parents need to consider the following when it comes to their kids gaming habits:
- Age appropriateness – There are a large number of games available; which ones are safe and appropriate for your child?
- Educational value – Is there a learning component to your child’s favourite game? What is your son or daughter taking away from the activity?
- Time – Too much gaming can lead to addiction – How much time should your child play video games per day? Per week?
- Security and privacy – Online and console gaming with strangers has its risks
All things considered, it can seem downright daunting for a parent who is not familiar with the ins and outs of the gaming world. Laptop, tablet or console gaming? How much is too much? What’s an appropriate age that kids can start playing video games? These are just some of the questions that go through the minds of parents as they work through the rapidly changing world of digital entertainment. Without answers, parents are left feeling vulnerable and worse – so are their kids.
Marc Saltzman is a technology expert who has been reporting on the high-tech industry since 1996. A published author, journalist. radio and TV personality, Marc is has regular video segments and syndicated columns on CNN, amongst many others. Both an long-time gaming expert and parent himself, Marc has seen it all when it comes to kids and tech. As a result, he’s a wealth of information for parents who have questions about the relationship between kids and technology.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Marc about the topic of kids and gaming and came away with new insight and answers to questions that many of us parents have about the topic. Some of the insight and advice that Marc provided includes the following:
- Video games can be a great tool for providing kids the opportunity to create their own adventure as well as increasing dexterity, hand-eye coordination, socializing, strategizing and puzzle-solving
- Consider gaming options, such as the Wii, that have family settings for wireless internet
- Be sure that console gaming is done in a highly-trafficked area of the home
- Consider games options such as XBox 360 and Windows 7 that have built-in timers that limit the amount of time that the kids can play
- Parents need to choose age- appropriate games for their kids and can do so by checking http://www.esrb.org and http://www.commonsensemedia.org
- Safety concerns related to gaming include inappropriate language, security risks, engagement from older players/strangers, racial slurs and more
Here’s the full video of my interview with Marc. He discusses the above points and more (please note that the Skype audio is off for a few minutes at the beginning but is corrected in most of the video):
How do you feel about video gaming for your kids? How much is too much? What are your concerns with this activity? Answer in the comments below.
Coming up next: Parenting in the Digital Age: Technology and Gender