Yes, really. Pick up the console (that’s the thing you drive the game with) and play.
Oh you don’t have time? Bullshit. This is your kid’s wellbeing you’re worried about (apparently), the thing that’s the topic de jour at school picks up or weekend sport.
Go home, ask your kids to show you how to play. Put aside all your busy-ness, forget the washing up, the stuff on the washing line or all the other jazz on your never-ending list of (tedious) things ‘to do’ and play.
Remember when your kid was little(r)? When standing at one of those musical tables while your toddler tapped and banged the buttons and clapped enthusiastically to the same song 17 times in a row was hilarious and cute and you’d not want to miss a single rendition? You had time. You still have time.
Freaking out about the ‘addictive’ features of the game is not helpful. Standing around at a BBQ bemoaning how you’ve ‘lost’ your kid to a game is helpless thinking. Saying there is no help around or parents or no warnings about the impacts of video games is simply not true in 2018. Look no further than The Office of the E-Safety Commissioner's new iParent resources as a starting point.
We must be proactive about understanding what we allow young people to digitally feast upon. Allowing them to gorge on activities without stopping to think about the ingredients or the impacts needs to stop. The whole ‘digital detox’ industry is predicated on overindulgence to begin with, starting with clear, consistent guidelines for healthy, reasonable habits negates these.
Proactive enquiry rather than retrospective worry is a key principle for digital parenting.
Think about how you’d feed a toddler. You’d check the temperature before your shovelled something in their gob, right? You’d make sure the Bolognese you made for the adults wasn’t too spicy for the kid. You’d check the nutritional label to check that the ‘yoghurt for kids’ wasn’t really a new way of marketing sweetened products to small humans, surely?
You need to think this way with digital technology. Except there are no nutritional labels for apps and games (yet). This is why you need to play. To taste test it, to understand what you’re feeding your kid cognitively, emotionally, mentally.
Buying into the media frenzy that erupts when the word ‘addictive’ is applied to anything digital (actually, any activity we garner some kind of guilty pleasure out of) is part of this problem. Confirmation bias feeds this too. Oh, your kid is obsessed with Fornite too? This must be an epidemic – quick let’s tweet the games developer our disgust!
Now to play Fortnite (or Minecraft, or Pokemon Go, or Overwatch) you need to get in the headspace of being playful. Not do it as homework, something you ‘should’ do, or feel like it’s onerous. Your kid doesn’t play with this thought in their head, they play to… play.
My guess is that not only will you get insight into the game (and yourself), the mechanics of the game and the joy of the positive reinforcement from success, you will have a whole bunch more interesting conversations and deepre connection with your kid afterwards.
Will you take up this challenge? Let me know what you discover!
PS: For some kids, gaming does become truly problematic - if you have concerns that keep you up at night, talk to a professional, starting with your GP.