Eight hours and 27 minutes. That is, according to TechRepublic, the average amount of time gamers spend with a keyboard or controller in their hands each week. While there is nothing wrong with a few games here and there, too much time submerged in gaming can have a negative effect on kids. Here, we touch on ways to both keep your children safe online and to get them to unplug.
6 Video Game Safety Tips for Tech-Obsessed Tweens and Teens
Start by setting limits.
The amount of time your children should be allowed to spend online can be determined by their age. According to the Child Mind Institute, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 60 minutes each school day, with children under six having even less time punching buttons. You should also limit who your children are allowed to talk with online in their games. Some games allow for completely anonymous interactive gameplay while others open up an unrestricted line of communication.
Understand the effects.
Gaming is not all bad. Gamers often have better spatial reasoning, improved cognitive function and memory, and have the chance to work on their social skills with peers remotely. However, too much gaming can cause everything from carpal tunnel syndrome to obesity and vision problems. Even more alarming, children who play too many video games may develop a gaming addiction.
While it should be a no-brainer, it’s worth mentioning that, as a parent, you should get involved with your children’s gaming experience. Play with them to ensure the games they choose are age-appropriate, and don’t be shy about asking them about their online companions. Make sure children also know that you are well within your rights to check their instant messages and turn off their game system’s chat function if you feel it’s necessary.
Know the tech.
Your game system is not the only technology your children may use. Make sure they have comfortable controllers, quality headphones with sound control settings, and the accessories they need to play their games safely. These things can add up, so do your research before making any type of investment that you hope will enhance their gaming experience.
Get them offline.
Today’s children tend to think that the best place to have fun is online. Remind them that this isn’t true by getting them involved with sports and activities that don’t involve being connected via the internet. After-school sports, picnics, board games, and swimming are all great options. You can even have them pretend they’re living a real-life video game by letting them play laser tag; the Scary Mommy blog recently reviewed many different sets starting at less than $30.
Don’t turn a blind eye to dangers.
Video games tend to make us feel safe because our children are at home and in our care. But, using the internet opens them up to a wide world of cyberbullies, online predators, cybercriminals, and others looking to cause trouble for naïve players. Norton explains that using strong passwords, only downloading from reputable sources, and keeping your software and hardware up to date are crucial to keeping yourself and your children safe online.
Video games have certainly come a long way since Atari became a household staple back in the late ‘70s. They have opened up new worlds for children, and, more recently, given them something to do when the weather is uncooperative or when they are spending more time at home because of the pandemic. And while video games certainly have a place in our children’s lives, they should not be the only way our kids stay entertained and we must never forget the dangers of the digital world.