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Co-learner, not gatekeeper

How to befriend video games

How to befriend video games

The demonization of video games is nothing new. Even back in the days of Pong and pinball, elders openly worried these amusements would “turn your brain to oatmeal.” But Andy Netzel notes how, as with many aspects of parenting, science shows this need not be the case, if only moms and dads get involved.

In our family lore, we still talk about the time our twenty-two-year-old son was three, and touched a Mac for the first time. Within minutes, he’d mastered a rudimentary CD-ROM game called Western Town. Other parents had similar stories. Clearly, this new tech was designed for young, developing minds, and those minds latched onto it, and into it, with astonishing ease.

Our “digital native” kid and his peers would grow up with omnipresent video games, ever more technologically advanced. For years, parents like us worried over how these devices – especially the violent ones – would harm impressionable minds. In fact, we kept them out of our house. Our son played at friends’ houses, often for hours.

Decades have passed, and kids in our orbit have had struggles and successes, but only a couple have what appears to be the “fried brain” we’d worried about, and it’s not at all clear their addled condition is due to video games.

READ MORE: Crafting New Worlds With Minecraft

So Netzel’s advice on being a “co-learner” rather than a “gatekeeper,” and encouraging parents to tackle gaming with their child, rather than criticize all games out of hand, seems pretty sound. Although a less enthusiastic, less proactive sentiment would be “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” the message is the same: get involved, do your homework, and everyone – including you, the parent – will be happy.

Netzel does not advocate unlimited game time, and in fact notes how parental involvement can actually help regulate kids’ involvement: “As a partner in gaming, parents can also help regulate the amount of time a young child is playing video games.

When parents take an active interest in the games, they have a much better idea of when, and how long kids are playing. They can also better empathize with their child’s sense of urgency in the game. That way, “at the end of this level” actually makes sense to a parent and decisions to the game off aren’t simply rote powerplays. This also helps kids who generally are not great at regulating themselves orient to time limits.”

The family that plays together stays together? Looks like that may extend to video games, too.

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