How to introduce gaming to children – and why it’s beneficial

Don’t be afraid of your child gaming (Picture: Getty/Metro.co.uk)

‘You should be outside instead of playing on that all day!’

A phrase myself and many of my peers remember without any kind of fondness, whether we were hardcore trophy collecting fiends, or simply jumped over the occasional hole as Crash Bandicoot.

Introducing your children to gaming is a widely contentious topic within the parenting community, and there’s a myth that it has a negative impact on development.

Hysteria from some corners would suggest that picking up a Playstation controller is an automatic descent into a hermit lifestyle and an aggressive nature. After all, there’s nothing more sinister than The Sims or FIFA.

But a recent study by experts in Sweden has found that children who spend more time playing video games see greater intelligence gains as they get older, and that gaming can be much more productive than scrolling through social media or watching TV.

Author Professor Torkel Klingberg at the Karolinska Institute said: ‘Our results support the claim that screen time generally doesn’t impair children’s cognitive abilities, and that playing video games can actually help boost intelligence.’

This won’t come as a real shock to the more logical among us. Viewing TV, while potentially stimulating, is a passive activity and social media is even more troublesome, with risks of cyberbullying as well as a void of negativity one can easily fall into.

As well as increased intelligence, mental health can receive a boost from gaming, and give young people a sense of control, especially if they feel they don’t have that in other parts of their lives.

Having any hobby is a good coping technique, no matter what the situation, and with the rise of mental health issues in young people, having an enjoyable outlet can be that safe place they need.

Getting lost in a world and being able to solve situations and obstacles is undoubtedly therapeutic.

There are many games that require problem solving skills; this can be through puzzles needing cracked or entire civilisations needing built. There’s a great deal of planning and critical thinking needed to succeed in these tasks, and this can give a real boost to cognitive skills without young people even realising that they are doing more than simply playing.

Games can be a tool of learning

Many games contain a hidden education and this can start from an early age. Years ago, this took the form of basic interactive sums, but in most games, direct educational stimulus is often hidden behind an intricate adventure.

Parents new to gaming will also find that reading skills are needed complete the more tactical games or fictional world exploring role-playing games.

Continuing the prose through the written word, whether this is via character dialogue or clues, is a much more manageable way to ensure your children develop their literary ability than forcing a book they don’t enjoy under their nose.

Father and daughter playing video games at home

Get involved (Picture: Getty Images)

They give children the satisfaction of completion

Some games are endless with daily tasks but others have very set goals. Either way, worth these objectives really boosts moral and sense of self-worth.

The gamer completion buzz is one that can really deliver confidence and this skill is a transferable one into real life.

A child who knows difficult tasks are possible to complete, and that this brings a sense of joy, will maintain this same kind of drive to achieve other successes.

As parents and guardians, it is therefore important to acknowledge it when a child boasts of beating their high score or defeating a tricky puzzle.
Even if it doesn’t make sense to us – and it often won’t.

They build relationships

Properly monitored, children can play with others online and develop their social skills and it is not just the game itself that can provide this; Excited discussions with peers can take part on the playground or during playdates too.

Discussions about successes, plot twists and also the satisfaction of helping a mate out who is stuck, can just as easily happen face-to-face as it can online.

It is simply not the case that there is a one or the other option between being a gamer and being social. If anything, the former can lead to the latter.

Connecting through hobbies does not become invalid when it comes to gaming.

Pre-adolescent girl concentrating while e-learning on laptop in living room

Gaming can be a great way for kids to make friends (Picture: Getty Images/Maskot)

Gaming between parents and children

Look, the best way to embrace this is to get involved yourself. You might end up enjoying it even more than your child!

Games can be a good bonding exercise. Connecting with our children can sometimes be hard especially as they get older. Pay an interest in what they are doing, and join in. Two heads are better than one.

The benefits of sharing activities and hobbies with your child are obvious; but they will be more excited than even they let on that you are just as enthused as they are.

Listen to how passionately they talk with you and the knowledge they want to share with you afterwards, and you will find the enthusiasm very uplifting.

Experiencing different games with your child also gives a sense of their interests, which can be honed in on and used in wider life. To use a basic example, a kid into FIFA might well also want to kick a ball about with you.

Use your own experience

Did you have a favorite game growing up? Start with that! I was always more of a Tomb Raider girl myself, but almost all of us have some fond recollection of gaming, even if it’s just casual.

Why not start retro? There are plenty of age-appropriate older (sorry, we have to face it some time) games to play together with your kids, which will also give us that sense of nostalgia which is pretty infectious.

Kids love to see their parents having fun; it creates a positive environment in which they thrive and it allows them to feel safe having fun too, without judgment.

Old school platformers like Mario and Sonic can be booted up – or how about puzzle solving games like Broken Sword and creative games such as Zoo Tycoon? By entering a game with knowledge of yourself, you aren’t on the back foot.

You might well have an old console knocking about, but most of the classics can be found on Playstation Store and Microsoft Store. That way you don’t have to explain what that massive wired brick you’re trying to attach to a Smart TV is.

Excited father watching son and daughter play video game

Ensure games are age-appropriate (Picture: Getty Images)

How and when might you introduce gaming to your kids?

Firstly, this generation of parents with children should be pretty clued up on at least the basics of the video game world.

We are not naïve as to what’s age-appropriate and beneficial to our child’s development – but if you’re not sure, make sure to check the age rating on any game before you buy it, and take a look at the content before kids dive into playing.

It can’t be overstated enough that gaming is only beneficial with the right approach. While doubters view video games as being synonymous with guns, zombies and swords, this is only one sector.

The debate for young adults around gaming with violence is one which again, is a controversial one, but that’s for another day.

With your children, it goes without saying that you need to monitor what they engage in so that violence is avoided.

This whole thing should be a positive experience. And through bonding, cognitive and social skill building and, most importantly, fun – it absolutely will be.

Do you have a story to share?

Get in touch by emailing MetroLifestyleTeam@Metro.co.uk.

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