Parenting Tips for Young Gamers That You Can Actually Use!
Before I begin, a bit of a background is in order. I recently came across this GI article titled "Discussing Video Game Violence With My Three-Year-Old Daughter" (which can be found here: http://www.gameinformer.com/b/features/archive/2016/05/15/di...
). You don't have to read it as it basically tells you nothing. I think what prompted me to write this in the first place is that I was curious to know how Andrew Reiner handles the topic of video game violence with his young daughter in hopes that I could learn something to apply with my kids, as well. And, of course, like most articles on the Internet nowadays, it's an eye-catching, finger-clicking bait article that's rather light on actual discussion of video game violence with kids. Don't get me wrong, it's a good (cautionary) tale, but I feel gypped that there was no actual discussion about game violence with kids that I could use. He just concludes with a cop-out (yet genuine) realization that he doesn't know how to start a dialogue with his daughter about the topic. (Ugh. Thanks a lot, Reiner. You're about as helpful as call waiting on the suicide prevention hotline.)
I decided that if Andrew Reiner isn't up to the task of helping out all you young parents of even younger children, then I will. I've noticed a growing number of dads on this site and I think it's great knowing that I'm not the only one out there with this new issue to address. While our generation basically "grew up" with the evolution in gaming at a gradual pace, kids today will grow up with ultra-realistic, mind-jarringly interactive medium whose full, long-term psychological effects are still unknown. But hey, if The Exorcist didn't screw you up too bad when you were younger, then this should be a cake-walk, right? So, let's start with the lesson to be learned from Reiner's situation (since I can't have those five minutes of my life back).
1) Don't play violent or inappropriate games during the day with your kids in the house!
This one seems obvious, but numb-nuts couldn't quite resist the siren song of Uncharted 4 while his young, impressionable daughter was in the house. Yeah, I know you're an adult and you feel like you should be able to do anything in your castle whenever you want or that you think you are the all-seeing eye of Sauron and can detect anything coming from anywhere, but you can't. At least not all the time. The purpose of games are to distract us and they do a surprisingly good job of it. Always assume that if there is a kid in the house, they will walk in on you all the time.
2) Set up your gaming space to have a full view of the door or entryway.
This is another lesson that we can take away from Reiner's cautionary tale. While some setups may take a bit of creativity on your part, the payoff is definitely worth it. The bedroom and living room are the only two places that I have a game console. The bedroom is easier because I can close the door, but even in the living room, I have the screen positioned in a way where I can see anyone coming by looking in the same general direction as the screen, but the person coming can't see what is on the screen. This will give you enough time to pause the game or dashboard if necessary. Assume that if someone can sneak up on you without you knowing, then it will eventually happen.
3) Make SURE your kids are asleep before you start playing an inappropriate game at night.
My three-year-old occasionally "can't sleep" so he strolls into my bedroom. Luckily, I keep the door closed and seeing it open is enough time for me to hit the pause button. But it's a close call. It's better that you take the 10 seconds necessary to check up on them to see if they're sound asleep or wide awake before starting to play.
4) Introduce them to games gradually at four or five years old.
Yeah, I know this is pretty specific, but you really can't wait until much later than that. The fact is that they ARE going to play games very young in their lives because their friends or relatives are doing it, so you need to be the person that introduces them and guides them in the wonderful, wide world of video games. This introduction can be as easy as letting them watch you play LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean. They'll be interested. Trust me. Just make sure you have an extra controller and have them jump in. Or you can let them play one of the billions of kid-friendly games on a kiddie or old tablet. Just make sure that you don't introduce them to games on your phone or primary tablet (for obvious reasons). Get them a cheap kid-friendly one like Leap Frog or an old tablet or phone you don't use anymore that you can lock down with parental controls and/or restrict internet access.
5) Play every single game that you allow them to play.
Don't take anything for granted. Pictures and game descriptions could be misleading or not giving you the whole story. There could be micro-transactions hidden in some of them. Or, you may find one level or thing further on in the game inappropriate for your kids' age. There could even be a bad Japanese translation gone awry. After all, the last thing you'd want is your five-year-old coming to you as a confident parent (knowing that the games you have allowed them to play are age appropriate) only to have them ask you; "Dad, what's a duck tampon?"
6) As they get older and are still interested in games, gradually introduce them to shooters.
I use "shooters" as a stand-in for any genre that has mature games. Shooters are simply easier for me to exemplify because they are so common and visceral. Anyway, the key point in this one is "if they are interested." Obviously, you're not going to force them into playing games if they don't want to, but like I said in point #4, you have to be the one to introduce them to stuff or else their friends will. So, if you want to have control of the situation, have them start playing a local co-op shooter with you with animated or cartoon-y violence. Halo would be one off the top of my head. You're playing against aliens and half the guns are day-glow, lite-brite neon. Also, the alien blood and violence make for an easy transition and explanation of how these things are more fiction than fact. Now, if your question is "what age is 'older,'" then I can't help you with that one. This is one that is dependent of their maturity, which knows no age. You, as a parent, are the only person on this planet who can make that call when it comes to your kids.
7) Play the games with your kid.
I kind of glossed over this one as I took it to be more of an assumption than anything else, but it deserves to be said. It also deserves to be higher up on the list. Hate all you want, but the Wii U (and Nintendo in general) is great for couch co-op games, which should be the focus of your time playing with kids. I'd encourage anyone to play the latest version of New Super Mario Bros., Smash Bros., and/or Mario Kart with your kids if it's available to you. Microsoft has some decent offerings, as well. In addition, you should really include some Kinect games in there as continuous, physical activity is a great way to tire those little buggers out.
8) Have a plan "B."
This is more of an insurance policy that Mr. Reiner could have used for his unexpected visitor. When you're alone with your thoughts in the shower or on the crapper (assuming you're out of batteries), think of what you will say to your kid if they catch you chainsawing a locust in half during an intense Gears of War session. If the cat's prematurely out of the bag, then you have to address it. “Tickle darts putting the other people to sleep” isn’t quite going to cut it with a 4-year-old. Let them know and illustrate to them the difference between real and pretend stuff. Let them know you were fighting monsters that are not real. Let them know that you're playing a doctor and the open-heart surgery went way off the rails. (Kidding, of course. I would say "aliens" instead of "monsters.") Whatever it is you want to tell them, plan it out in your head first before they catch you playing something they shouldn't be seeing. That way, even if you're caught off guard, you'll have something to tell them without missing a beat and looking stupid. Half of being a good parent is in the preparation. I guess Reiner didn't get that memo. Numb-nuts.
9) Get a good headset.
When the kids are asleep, and you want to play The Evil Within, but don't want to mute the game, a good set of cans is essential. However, make sure that the volume isn't too high, because you may need to keep an ear-out for the eventual "Daddy! Water!" call at 12:35 a.m. I would also like to point out that virtual reality headsets are just around the consumer corner and the potential to use one of these things as a private, personal gaming screen is promising. For example, those of you with a PS4 (Reiner) may want to invest in the PSVR that allows you to connect to the PS4 console and play games on the headset without anyone else being able to see the screen. I'm not sure what VR headset would be compatible with the Xbox 360 or One, but if the Oculus Rift or HTV Vive can display output from your console, the investment in one of these things would be well worth it if you have people around the house that you don't want watching what you play.
10) Have an infinite amount of patience.
When your kid starts playing video games, prepare to have your patience tested. It may be that he/she won't do what you tell them to do in couch co-op game or you keep barking directions that they don't understand or it may even be them hogging the console all day long playing their Disney Infinity 3.0 and not giving you any playing time. It has to be in the forefront of your mind that this is new and uncharted territory for your kid. They are unfamiliar with the controls, spatial orientation and context prompts. Just remember when you first played video games how simple it was with one directional pad and/or joystick and a button or two. All of our games were two-dimensional. It wasn't until we were older that we were gradually introduced to a third dimension of movement and more buttons on the controller. Your kid isn't going to have that luxury. The easiest, most intuitive way that they will learn to play games is on a touchscreen. Naturally, two analog sticks, four face buttons, two triggers and shoulder buttons is going to be incredibly daunting to them. Playing simple platform or racing games that only utilize a few of the buttons is a good start. Also remember that some kids learn faster than others. If your kid is hogging up the console time, don't yank the controller away from them in anger or turn off the console unannounced. Rather, take the time to talk to them about how much time you think is appropriate for them to be spending on the console and then stick to it. Luckily for us, the modern consoles have a "parental clock" on them that we can use. The purpose of this activity is to have fun, so either enjoy the time your kid is playing (with or without you) or go be aggravated somewhere else.
Now, I know a lot of this stuff seems like common sense, but we are, after all, creatures of habit. We've gone so long playing solo without having to worry about anyone else "catching us" playing, that our paranoia muscle reflex has atrophied. Well, dear parents of toddlers, it's time to get that paranoia back, only this time, instead of your parents, it’s going to be your kid.
Of course, if you just use a condom, you really won’t have to bother with any of this crap.
Posted by Silicon Iceman
on 25 October 16 at 21:06
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