Offering parents and children a specific “length of time” to spend on screens or playing games is not as beneficial as providing strategies and approaches to develop healthy gaming habits and building young people’s self-awareness and self-control to support their gaming, and all aspects of their lives into the future.
The “screentime” concept, which experts are now continually trying to shift away from in favour of more nuanced ideas around how to engage with technology, continues to dictate a “time” based approach to managing technology. This advice appeals to parents because it is actually low-engagement strategy, it simply requires clock watching. This does not support children to develop their own self-control of good habits around screen use.
It is best to offer a series of tips/advice that supports parents to be more engaged in their children’s gaming and to help their children develop self-awareness and self-control in their lives.
The Digital Australia 2020 report identified that an increasing number of parents are playing games with their children. This is a great way to spend time playing with your child or teen, talking to them and understanding the importance of games in their life.
As children grow, they have a range of competing priorities. Using a Family Technology Plan or similar, you can help teach your child/teen to prioritise important aspects of their life before gaming. So, you can create rules together that suit your family. These can be whatever you like, but they should teach your child that gaming is not what comes first, like any hobby, it comes after basics like eating, keeping our room clean, doing homework and spending time with family. The rules might not even be about managing gaming, but are about preferencing the behaviours and habits we know are important and make us feel good. Rules like:
For nearly two decades, the 2020 Digital Australia report research has indicated that the average gamer is an adult. Video games are not just for children, a majority of them are for adults. Games are subject to a classification system and when you buy games for or with your child be aware of that. Adult content like nudity, excessive violence, horror, sex acts and offensive language are part of many popular games that are meant exclusively for an adult audience. The classifications are the same as movies – be aware of them.
Not all games are alike. Like any medium – film, novel, TV – there are different genres and types and experiences you can have with gaming. Support your child to look beyond the popular games and explore games that offer different experiences. Some games are slow and meditative, others rich in storytelling. If you child loves a first person shooter style, do a deal with them and get them to play other games first before they are allowed to play more first person shooters.
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