The $ 200 billion gaming business is bigger than combining the music, film and TV industries.
Dallas – Recent studies show that children spend more time together than they ever did in gaming.
5-8 year olds play some kind of video game for about 40 minutes a day. And children over the age of 8 play for about an hour and a half. If today’s digital parents think games are everywhere, they may be right.
“It’s one of those activities that everybody does, even if they say they don’t do it,” said Jeff Haynes, senior video game editor at Common Sense Media. “They’re probably gaming. In fact, playing games in and of itself is a human activity. Gaming in itself is not a bad thing – it just depends on how you do it.”
Haynes’ job is to help parents make informed decisions regarding the games they are playing today. Common Sense Media provides reviews and insight into a variety of topics that children have access to, including video games. His work not only gives an overall rating to a particular game, but also highlights whether or not that title includes adult language, excessive violence, commercialization, positive role models or not.
This is a useful tool for parents who are trying to keep tabs on what their children are playing and how much time they spend on gaming. Haynes quickly remembers that this is not the amount of time spent in gaming, but the quality.
“There is nothing wrong with having the option to play a game, especially if you have done your homework or chores, as a way to relax,” he said. “Everyone has to do it. Playing games is a human activity.”
Defenders of gaming say the industry is getting worse. Many games are educational and can help children build important life skills.
Like sports or simple board games, it’s important to remember that video games are a productive and worthwhile effort to relax, bond with friends, or blow a little steam, Haynes said.
But parents should be concerned when gaming is elevated above all else in a child’s life, neglecting schoolwork, chores and other responsibilities. And when a child is suddenly secretive about her gaming habits, if things are hidden from her mother or father, it is a red flag.
Another concern for parents – the chat function is built into many of today’s games. Often times, the person on the other end of the chat is anonymous. This means that parents do not always know what their child is talking about or what they are talking about. Haynes recommends disabling chat features if they are inconvenient for parents.
And like most parents, Haynes said the most important piece of advice that parents have is a common one: talk to your children. Or better yet, join them in gaming.
“Just sit back and listen, what do you like about this particular title, genre, experience,” Haynes said. “Ask their child what they are doing, why they like it. And then you can talk about this shared experience.”
More Report on Digital Parenting by Mark Istuk: