It is. Yes, video games are actually good for kids, for parents, for grandparents – for human beings. However, like all things in this world, they must be used in moderation, you must adhere to age guidelines, and use your common sense.
There is a wonderful free book that I discovered through ReadWriteWeb called The Modern Parent’s Guide to Kids and Video Games by Scott Steinberg. It raises quite a few interesting points and is well worth reading before you slam the console shut and throw away the key.
Video games are not the root of all evil and can actually be good for problem solving, reflexes, independent thought, creativity and more. However, like anything else, you can’t sit in front of the TV for ten hours at a time. An hour in front of the TV a day is considered good form, so stick with that and spend the rest of the time drawing, reading and running about outdoors.
I got in touch with Ukie, a company that represents the gaming industry in the UK, to talk about how parents can get the most out of games and how to really work with them and your kids. Ukie is launching the Control. Collaborate. Create initiative at the moment on Askabout games.com and this is all about showing parents how gaming can be a collaborative and creative experience.
In fact they have just launched a competition to find the UK’s most collaborative and creative video game playing families who can win the chance to be made into video game characters. I think that is insanely cool. The competition can be found here if you fancy giving it a try.
So, yes, by taking an interest in your child’s video gaming choices and the consoles they are playing them on will help them to feel more confident in talking to you about them and give you more control over what they are playing. You can see what types of games they like and locate titles that suit that interest without being too violent or old for them or their level of development.
Parents can also take control over what games their children play, how they play them and for how long by using the parental controls that come standard on video game systems. These are built into the consoles by the manufacturers – not many people actually know this – so parents can programme them to suit their limitations and needs.
You can use these settings to encourage kids to take regular breaks which should be at least five minutes every 45-60 minutes. If your kids are young, don’t let them play for that long at all, or play more than that period of time in one day. You want them to stay fit and healthy and do other things too.
Askaboutgames recommends that you move the console into a shared space such as the sitting room so that parents can monitor what games their children play and even take part in them. They also suggest choosing games that encourage and fuel creativity. Little Big Planet lets players build the environments they explore, for example…
Active games like the ones constantly being put out for the Kinect and the Wii are also a great way of keeping the whole family fit together. Wii Fit Plus won’t really burn a lot of calories but it will burn a lot more than sitting around eating doughnuts and gaming will! Titles such as Just Dance (there is a Junior version) are also fun for the whole family as you all boogie along and laugh at each other at the same time. And clever physics games like World of Gooare brilliant for families to work together to solve problems.
If you are not sure where you can find the controls for your console that help you to restrict the games your children play, and for how long, then visit the askaboutgames website which has an entire section dedicated to explaining the ins and outs of this process. It isn’t hard and you’ll be pretty pleased with yourself when you’re done.
So, there you have it. Video games are not evil and dangerous, they can actually be a great source of fun, creativity and family collaboration. They do, however, need to be chosen wisely and monitored closely so that they are played smart for maximum results and fun.