I have 3 school age children, and one of the most important things that my husband and I worry about is their use of digital devices. They are learning to be intentional with their limited time on them because there are negative effects of technology. I highly recommend reading an article written by Jon Johnson in Medical News Today that discusses the psychological and physical health effects of technology, as well as how to create healthful habits with technology and avoid overuse.
In addition, I have the honor of featuring an article by Daniel Sherwin of DadSolo who provides valuable tips so that parents can help their children safely interact with their digital devices in healthful ways.
Game Over: Ensuring Your Kids Are Playing Video Games Safely
Authored by Daniel Sherwin
It’s easy to forget that the medium of video games is still fairly young, with the first commercially popular game ‘Pong’ developed as recently as 1972. As the industry continues to refine its parameters for acceptable content, many are wondering where to draw the lines. If you want to keep your kids safe and having fun, you’ll need to learn the industry rules and build a criterion of your own.
Just like with movies, video games have age certifications, which denote the suitability of their content. If you want to make sense of the blood, guts, nudity, and profanity of modern gaming, you’ll need to read and acquaint yourself with its unique labeling system. Instead of numerical tags (like in cinema), the rating categories are ranked as Everyone, Everyone 10+, Teen, Mature 17+, Adults Only 18+ and Rating Pending.
In addition to the age ratings, you have ‘content descriptors’, which give more details regarding blood and gore, alcohol references, nudity, and more. You can also keep an eye out for ‘interactive elements’ such as in-game purchases, location sharing, etc. that allude to the ways in which your child will be interacting with others or the involvement of real-world currencies. Make sure to read carefully through any of the small print before green-lighting a videogame for your child, there are often no restrictions for downloading or buying a game with any of these individual features.
Microtransactions have been the center of many controversies over the last few years – many within the industry consider them detrimental to the playing experience but, more importantly, there are fears that some titles (Fortnite, Call of Duty) use in-game transactions in a fashion akin to gambling. Microtransactions are most succinctly described as purchases made during a game (such as when a character buys a new set of clothes). The waters become murky, however, when real-world currencies are converted to in-game currencies and then used to purchase randomly-generated items.
It’s difficult to ascertain how and when microtransactions will appear within games, but you can usually spot a suspect by the ‘in-game purchases’ label or by the price of the video game itself – most games that are free to buy/download incentivize in-game purchases as a source of revenue instead. If you want to protect your child (and wallet) from these games, keep an eye out for notorious companies who have pivoted to this business model such as EA Games (FIFA, Madden), Epic Games (Fortnite), or Activision Blizzard (Call of Duty).
Almost all of the dangers inherent in gaming come from the online space. By prohibiting your child from playing online, you’ll be denying them a large portion of the playing experience but also shielding them effectively from predators, scammers, frustration, and bullying. It’s no coincidence, either, that 4 of the 5 most addictive games are online multiplayer.
The good news is there’s a treasure trove of non-addictive and wonderfully creative games available that don’t require the internet at all. These can provide a much-needed escape for a stressed kid and, with a good headset (kept at an acceptable volume), you can really help them to immerse in another world.
As ZenBusiness shares, allowing your children to have more screen time can be a boon for your productivity when working from home. And gaming can certainly fit the bill. However, balance is crucial. Too much screen time is never a good thing for a child, nor, frankly, are some current video game titles, but if you’re alert to the dangers, you can protect your child from addiction, abuse, and trauma, and introduce them to a world of healthy stimulation, learning and adventure instead.
If you would like to connect with Daniel, he can be found at DadSolo.