Tag Archive | gaming

The tricky job of parenting kids who game

Did you see the Horizon programme on gaming last week; ‘Are video games really that bad?

I think the dilemma of how much children should be gaming is a concern of every parent wherever children are educated.

If they’re home educated, they have more time for and access to gaming. If they’re at school all day, and just want to game in the evenings and nothing else, the parents still have the same worry about whether the work’s being done or never getting to see the kids!

The programme raised many interesting points, many on the positive aspects of gaming and how it could be influential to mental development for both the young and the rest of us!

But of course, research and statistics can be stacked to show anything you want them to show – I’m very aware of that and so should we all be.

However, after watching this programme and another one on Panorama; ‘Could a Robot Do My Job?’ which suggested that the most valuable preparation for the world of employability were skills; technological, creative thinking and caring skills, my feeling about parenting remains the same.

That education and our parenting, and how your kids turn out, is never the result of one influence.

Decisions about gaming and technology are never taken in isolation, there are far more intangibles that come into play. For example; parenting styles and how much interaction parents have, conversations about the games and discussions about how to respond to them, or what else is on offer at the time, the home environment, the child’s personality, all play a part. And these issues affect the way our children grow, how they develop, and how they respond to the things in their lives, either educational opportunities – or gaming.

The way in which children respond to gaming and the violence that they witness there has been of huge concern. And the programme asks whether this is likely to make children themselves more violent. But as the programme points out, it is not the violence in the game that affects kids in isolation, it’s often the frustration children feel – and this can be influenced by other factors besides gaming like how much they do it and how much they get out for active play, for example – which affects what they do as a result of gaming.

Parenting children who game is no different to parenting children who do anything; it’s about maintaining a balance between all activities and aspects of their lives, having conversations about life and what is healthy and what is not, constantly being involved and keeping communication open!

Is gaming educational?

Call me a hypocrite if you like but I’m now going to suggest gaming can be educational!

The gaming industry is tapping into what teachers and parents and all the home educators have always known; that if children are happy and engaged in their learning they will achieve a lot more.

This week’s Click on BBC news this Sunday reported on a selection of games at the Serious Games Expo that are supposed to enhance learning. These were mostly for business purposes but I’ve always thought that computer games for educational purposes would be an absolutely fantastic way to learn. There are already some, but our experience of them was that they were little better than keeping kids busy; poorly thought out, far too slow and downright boring in some cases.

But when I watched my youngest on SIMS I used to think how fantastic it would be if there were games as intricate as that which taught kids about their world, languages, history or science topics.

‘Horrible Histories’ both the books and the programmes are a brilliant example of children learning through enjoying themselves. My kids were always citing historical events as a result of watching these, their knowledge soon exceeding mine. And there are many educational games on the BBC Learning site which we used when we were home educating. But if we could get beyond the constipated idea that education has to be grindingly dull and laborious in order to be effective we’d be able to use these untapped facilities a lot more.

Education doesn’t have to dull and laborious; that’s why it’s switching so many of them off. If it’s enjoyable, achievements soar. The kids love their gaming, absorb themselves in it and concentrate for hours even those who are supposed to have ‘attention deficit’ problems. Why should we not use well constructed games to help them learn?

Course having said all that we’re still stuck with the problem of having to limit their ‘screen time’, which I mentioned on my last post.  And not give in to the excuse that mine very quickly learned to adopt; ‘but it’s educational’. We’ll always need to make vigilant judgements about whether it really is!

Do you ration your kids’ ‘screen time’?

“Can I put the telly on?” my youngster would ask at various times during the day.

“No!”

“Doh! Can I go on the computer?”

“Not now, darling.”

“Can I play on my DS, then?” She was never one to give up easily.

“NO!”

It’s not that I was some kind of Hitler when we were home educating. It’s just that I felt the need to ration the kids’ ‘screen time’ otherwise they’d overdose. And with them being at home all day it was very easy to give in to it for a quiet moment.

There was a debate on The Wright Stuff this morning (I’d given in to some telly time myself!) about whether as a parent you’d rather your kids watched TV or played computer games. This was the result of a piece of research that stated kids were more creative if they played computer games.

I can be a cynic about some research. Big businesses can pay for research to come up with any kind of finding they like as long as it enhances their big business. And I didn’t rate this finding at all. So I wondered what the outcome of the discussion would be.

The panellists battled the issue about for a while before they came up with the obvious; it’s not so much about which your children do, it’s about the important fact that they do it in moderation. And even more importantly in balance with a whole host of other things that involve them in a variety of activities, from reading to running, computer games to tiddlywinks, telly to exercise.

When the kids are in the intense environment of school all day it’s no wonder they need a bit of down-time in front of a screen. We all do. When you’re home schooling it’s more tricky to keep it moderation which is why I resorted to setting a limit on ‘screen time’.

That wasn’t too bad for me; I’m not much of a screen junkie. My partner found it a bit more difficult as he enjoyed a bit of telly on his days off and the kids enjoyed grassing him up. We used to explain that since he was out most of the time working he was allowed to catch up on his screen ration. Yes – we were rationed too. We believed we should also practise whatever we asked of them. Because the biggest influence on what your children do is what you do yourself, which is a bit of a sod when you’d like to finish work and crash out in front of the telly or computer all evening.

But being parents we need to take responsibility. We should check out our own life/screen time balance.

Because it is our responsibility to moderate our behaviour so that it gives our kids the best example we possibly can. Hard work sometimes. Absolutely worth it in the end. Parenting is SO important you have to make an effort. Always. It’s no game. And there are no short cuts.

But it’s the best thing you’ll ever do. Much, much better than gaming or watching telly!