Balanced Gaming for Parents

Work, life and fun in the age of computer games.

How do I guide my child to have a balanced relationship with computer games?

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1. Pay attention to ESRB ratings. Computer games aren’t like movies - they are more immersive and you need to think harder before you let your kid play a game that has a Teen or Mature Rating.

2. Write up some rules about computer use with your child.  Make sure to include stuff like safeguarding personal information, limiting the amount of time your child can play on the computer, cyberbullying (don’t say it online if you wouldn’t say it in person), and what to do if your child encounters some inappropriate content. Finally, agree on a healthy amount of time to spend on the computer.  here’s a template you can use.

3. Find out why your child plays games. This will involve some work. read this thoroughly - pay special attention to the part about how kids run into trouble when they use games to escape. People play games for different reasons - we need to understand this as parents.

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Introduction to balanced gaming for parents

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What can we learn from video games, anyway?

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Do This...

Make a PACT with your kids

Very good guide to making an agreement about media use with your students.  MS_PACT.pdf


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Should I make a plan with our child?

Yes. 

Sit down and talk with your child about common-sense rules for computer use.  You both should think about:

1. How much time per day is reasonable?
2. What sites are ok to visit?
3. Is it ok to IM and chat?
4. When your kid is using the internet for homework, what are the guidelines?
5. What happens when a rule is broken?
6. What kinds of games are ok to play?
7. What should your kid do if they encounter something that makes them feel uncomfortable?
8. How often should these rules be revisited?
9. Will you install parent-survey software? Will you discuss the results?

You should keep the computer in a public place in the house.


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Model the life you want your kids to live

blah blah blah blah blah do what I say and not what I do blah blah blah blah.

Life is hard sometimes, and our kids need to hide / escape / deal. This is normal. Sometimes as adults we need the same thing.  Pay attention to how your children play games, what they are playing, and what else they are doing. If you want me to write some formula for you I will…but you know your son or daughter a hell of a lot better than I do.


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Don't do this...

What’s up with games and trust?

Video games can sit at the social crossroads of parenting, adolescents, trust, autonomy, values, culture, and adulthood.

Because of this, there is a tremendous variation in the ways families and people approach video games. Some families might be very liberal, some might be quite conservative.

I always thought good parenting is about the right balance of letting go and holding on, and like our immune system, kids need to be exposed to society in order to learn how to deal with it.


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Should I pull the plug?

At the end of the day,  you are the parent. You are in charge, and you make the rules.  Use this power with care.  I’ve seen many parents use the nuclear option - not just for games, but for anything. 

You get what you want, and you can injure your relationship with your kid.

Am I saying let your kid do what they want to, whenever they want to? No. I am saying create reasonable rules, ofter positive alternatives, and create clear and flexible structure.  Computer games can be bad, sure - but almost anything can be when taken into extreme or used maliciously.


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