Video games tend to get a bad rap from media, parents and society as a whole as the world laments the impact they’ve had on a nostalgic world of books, board games and outside play. Yes, they can while away many hours from a child’s day, promote violent play and misogynistic themes and prevent children from getting the exercise and sleep they need. However, gaming is good for kids too.
They are a valid form of entertainment, storytelling, pastime, social platform and sometimes even a stress reliever that can be a perfectly healthy addition to our children’s lives. Rather than cower in a world of anxiety and fear, constantly clicking on the alarmist headlines, let’s instead take the reins and choose to work with our kids and the technology to ensure it can be a positive addition to their lives.
Why gaming is good for kids
I first need to make it clear that I would never advocate for a child to play video games non-stop at the expense of their wellbeing. It goes without saying that they should not be playing games so much that they don’t get any homework done, or that they skip meals or sleep or stop hanging out with friends or doing activities they always did.
I am also not advocating for children to play inappropriate and violent games that are sending all sorts of crazy messages about violence, gender roles, breaking the law, etc.
There are; however, many, many video games out there that are actually great for your child as well as being something they simply enjoy doing. And there has been a significant increase in research into why gaming is good for kids. The findings of researchers such as Daphne Bavelier and Jane McGonigal dismiss the notion of gaming as being mindless and time-wasting, but rather espouse the benefits of gaming to actually ignite positive change to social, emotional, physical and cognitive development.
If your child loves playing games, instead of spending all your energy worrying about how you can stop them from playing, remember that there are some really good reasons why you should continue to let them play. Here are some of the reasons why gaming is good for kids.
1. Gaming provides a sense of achievement
Going through different levels, accomplishing tasks, gaining access to new worlds or environments and creating and making things, allows them to feel the excitement and satisfaction of achievement. For children who may struggle to attain a certain level of success in other more ‘popular’ arenas, the positive benefits of conquering a game or level can never be underestimated for its ability to boost confidence and create a positive sense of self.
2. Gaming increases coordination and tracking skills
The physical benefits of game playing also refer to improvements in spatial awareness, hand-eye coordination and attention to detail. Many careers now use gaming as part of their training to simulate situations and build on these skills.
3. Games provides a sense of belonging
For many children, video games give them a sense of belonging they may not get to experience in other areas of their lives. Not all kids get to feel the sense of community from their peers, they may not enjoy sports and being part of a team, they may not have any other avenue of feeling connected. With over 70% of game playing involving collaboration or competition this also emphasises the interactive nature of video games as opposed to the more passive nature of other screen time activities.
When kids get home from school sometimes they need time to ‘switch off’. Having to participate, to be ‘on’, be present and interacting with others all day can be emotionally taxing on many kids. Video games have been reported to have huge benefits for those needing to simply ‘chill out’ for a while and do their own thing without the demands of others.
5. Gaming develops persistence and resilience
Persistence and overcoming obstacles is one of the most valuable skills we can teach our kids. Many video games require you to experiment with different ways to do things. They require you to change tactics, be creative in your thinking and strategy and come up with new ways to solve problems.
6. Gaming is good for cognitive thinking
Gaming is not always about shooting people, or racing cars. And even in these games as well as the many other types of games kids play, there is some pretty high order thinking that is required to conquer challenges, solve puzzles and advance to other levels.
7. Gaming is good for teamwork and collaboration
Many games require players to play in pairs, teams and collaborate with others for the greatest outcome. Negotiating what tools to use, trusting others to have your back in battle and deciding on the best course of action as a team can all be great ways to learn those important skills of working with others, compromise and trust that may well transfer to the work they do both at school and beyond.
How to spot a problem
It’s not all good news, of course. The creators of games know what appeals to our brain and our reward systems and thus they come complete with hooks and never-ending loop systems that make it very difficult for us to put them down.
With the lure of getting to one more level, making one more kill, finding one more bag of loot, crushing one more piece of candy, having one more chance to be the last man standing, the brain of a young person can find it difficult to naturally tell themselves when they have had enough. So we do need to help them with that.
That means we can have some boundaries around the times they play, particularly if they are having trouble regulating that for themselves. And we must look out for the red flags that tell us our children are struggling to control their time spent.
We want to avoid them heading down the slippery slope to obsessive behaviours that get harder to manage the older they get, and the more entrenched those behaviours become.
Red flags may be:
having a tantrum or becoming aggressive when they are told to come off the games
skipping meals or losing sleep because of game playing
no longerparticipating in activities they once enjoyed
slipping in school grades or not wanting to attend school.
The problem, of course, is that all of the above can also be seen as normal tween and teen behaviours. But if we think that our child’s game playing is impacting other areas of their life in an increasingly negative way, then it may be time to step in and make some changes. Discuss together those concerns and how you can come up with a plan to help them remain in control and avoid
slipping into those obsessive behaviours.
My name is Sarah and I have anxiety. Saying it like that doesn’t seem enough. People often have anxiety and many more have found themselves experiencing it for the first time, during these terrible times. It doesn’t seem like enough. Not nearly enough. If this is what it feels like right now, I can’t face the anxiety when lockdown ends.
Written by Bron Maxabella in discussion with Sarah
I’ve been on medication to control my fears and stress since my late teens. It still comes and it goes. Right now, it is an ever-present, toothed beast, ripping at my back, daring me to relax my ram-rod vigilance. Being hyper-aware at all times is the only way I can settle at all. I can’t see this virus, can’t feel it, would never know it was there, which is why it scares me so much. I can’t sleep, I can barely eat, I roam my home like a shimmering ghost, staring out of windows at the terrifying world outside. And cleaning.
My anxiety about the virus has me washing and sterilising surfaces all day, every day. My fear radiates through our home like fire. I’ve never had OCD tendencies, not once in my life, but now I wash and I wash and then I turn around and start again. Top to bottom, bottom to top, side to side, everything clean, clean, clean until it’s not and back to the beginning I go. Often I sob as I clean, for I can’t stand to live like this. Can’t stand to have the kids see the pain I wash into every corner of our home.
They can’t look anyway, for fear they’ll catch it. They know how contagious anxiety can be.
My eldest catches it easily. I have never known whether she would have been an anxious child if she had a different mother. That’s not the kind of thing a mother’s heart lets you think about. Perhaps. Maybe. Around in circles my head goes, picking at every loose end in my children, pulling, fixing, niggling. But my heart won’t ever let me examine what a life without me in it would have meant for my children. A different life, and a voice in my soul whispers, “better.”
My daughter doesn’t want to go back to school, but that’s okay. She’s never, ever willingly gone to school. It’s been a battle from day one and next week will be no different. My one positive from this coronavirus time has been not having that daily fight. I’ve always known that she has to go in. I spent my whole childhood avoiding the things that made me anxious and look where I am now.
I understand, I tell her, but I have to make you go. You have to learn to bear your pain or it never goes away.
The battle nearly kills both of us, each and every day. A sudden thought wrenches me up with a gasp: next week, it might actually kill her.
Not ready, not ready, not ready, not ready, not ready, not yet.
My son will fly out the door, his anxiety wholly attached to wanting to get away. From me. Fearful I might clutch at his heels as he leaves, pulling him back in. “One day a week of normal life,” was how my son described it when he heard schools were reopening. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that there is nothing ‘normal’ about life now. The virus hasn’t gone anywhere. I’m just so comforted by the fact that he is hopeful, relaxed. He hasn’t caught it. Doesn’t feel it. I accept his need to get away, pull it close like a blanket.
My friends are also relaxed about school going back. They are keen to get their kids out of the house, seeing friends, returning to school life. It makes me angry, if I’m honest. I’m angry that they don’t share my anxiety. I’m angry that it seems to be so easy for them to trust. To just let go. I envy them their willingness to relinquish control, let someone else make the decisions. They will never know what it feels like to be rigid with vigilance, 24 hours a day. To see fear in every moment. They will send their kids off to school next week and head back home to work or potter and they will just never know.
It’s hard not to be angry when you suffer from anxiety. I’m too exhausted to be anything else. That’s the bottom line for me. And this is just where it begins.
Pip Lincolne is a top-notch human who has recently released a new book. When Life Is Not Peachy is a gentle guide for navigating loss, grief or other sad times – like right now, for instance? With thoughtful advice on dealing with friends and family; healthy tips for eating and exercise when you don’t feel like it; and a just-keep-yourself-going ‘101’ for when you’re feeling very low. It’s the bolstering force we need to feel a bit closer to ourselves, or find a bit of peace. Here is her 3 Good Things strategy – an easy practice that will help lighten the load.
The 3 Good Things practice has been super-helpful for me, so perhaps you will take a shine to it, too? The idea is pretty self-explanatory and the benefits are far-reaching.
For 3 Good Things, you simply write down… three good things that you have experienced each day.
For optimal results, you are supposed to write about them in as much detail as possible, but I have found that even writing a very short sentence for each one still yields benefits.
These things may not seem good to you, but they are good to me.
I’ll share some of my ‘good things’ with you, as a simple example. Honestly, these things may not seem good to you, but they are good to me and that’s the beauty of this practice. Your 3 Good Things are just for you, and you don’t need to share them with anyone.
Some of my 3 Good Things
Noticed that someone had left two biscuits beside a public dog bowl when I was at the shops.
Heard two old gents offering to shout each other breakfast.
Did not leave the washing in the washing machine overnight.
As you can see, my 3 Good Things are very brief because I want to make this easy for myself and I’m seeking to do this daily.
The other beautiful thing about this simple practice is that it helps you look for life’s gems. When you are feeling crappy, it’s easy to cast the entire universe in a dark light — but 3 Good Things tends to shift that perspective to something brighter and provide a little optimism injection. You head into your day with a positive task in the back of your mind, more keenly on the lookout for the good.
The other beautiful thing about this simple practice is that it helps you look for life’s gems.
If you practise 3 good things regularly, you can start to redefine the things that matter to you, which is especially helpful if you’re feeling a bit stuck and anxious.
And science tells us the benefits can be profound. A 2005 study by psychologist Martin Seligman and colleagues, published in American Psychologist, found that writing about three good things was associated with increased happiness immediately after documenting the three things, as well as one week, one month, three months and six months later.
So, what have you got to lose?
More of my 3 Good Things
Did not cry during a disagreement!
Had a long discussion with my kid about some interesting stuff
Some parents worry a lot about which high school to send their child to, while most don’t have a choice and go local. Parents analyse schools for their results, attitudes, cohort, reputation, ‘values’, uniforms and much more. Just remember what’s important to you might not be for your child and that the school will not define their entire existence. No matter which school your teen attends it can seem like a big scary zoo that your child enters as a tiny, cute, meek meerkat and leaves as a magnificent lion or, perhaps, a gawky giraffe. Here’s our very rough guide to the high school years.
They start sweetly, with their huge, shiny, proper schoolbag, their pristine uniform and their deep desire to please both you and their teachers. That first day of year 7 is both terrifying and exciting for them, and heart-swelling and heart-busting for you. You must walk away and wait until the end of the day to hear how much the big kids swear and how they got lost and how the canteen is so wonderfully unhealthy compared to primary school.
Within a few weeks of starting high school, expect your child to be overwhelmed with the workload and the emotional overload of changing of classrooms, getting to know different teachers, making new friends and finding their way around. After finishing primary school at the top of the social heap, they are now often friendless, alone and a small minnow. They might feel lost and confused, or throw themselves into so many activities so quickly that they get overtired and lose it. Be thankful if yours adapts instantly and is openly thrilled with themselves. It’s a big year and a huge transition.
Keep an eye on your baby this year, but you can’t baby them too much anymore.
Combine all that with what is probably their first experience of a smartphone and you can get into a tricky too-much-tech-too-soon situation. Some kids who don’t know anyone can develop a playground screen safety net. Keep an eye on your baby this year, but you can’t baby them too much anymore.
Just when they’ve got the hang of high school, made friends and are feeling confident, they might be split up into new classes and feel they have to start again.
Year 8 is also the year they start to feel on top of things and less like babies, so work is often less important than getting an A in socialising or in starting to act up and act out. Some teachers mark this as the year teens can become slightly demonic.
Puberty divides kids into some who look almost adult and others who are still tiny.
This year will see the flowering of the deep desire to want to impress and be accepted by their peers. Lots of girls can get distraught over friendship bust ups, being dropped as a BFF and other sudden tribe shifts. Teens can get mean or confused while trying to manage their relationships and they might stop telling you every detail about what’s going on.
That’s good in a way, but it also means you lose touch with who is who and what’s going on. They might lie awake at night worrying about impending world war, or a war that’s split their friendship group. The group dynamics can become cruel and more physically aggressive. Puberty divides kids into some who look almost adult and others who are still tiny.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that Year 9 is a shocking year. In recognition of this, some schools practically give up on academic learning and focus on practical life skills – kind of admirable, as all teens should learn how to iron their own shirt and make you a latte.
There is much going on in terms of their social standing and the school group dynamics can look a touch ‘Lord of the Flies’. Your teen can become rude and disrespectful and too cool for school. This is often the year they are choosing electives and then hate their choice and regret it and spend a lot of time trying to get out of it.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that Year 9 is a shocking year.
Friendships become more supportive and mature in Year 10. Hopefully your teenager will find their peeps, start calming down and focusing on schoolwork.
They will need to choose subjects for the last years of school and this can prove hard for some. How do they know what they want to do, when they still don’t know who they are? Are they sporty? Are they into maths and science? Are they arty? What if they are all or none of those things?
Tell your teen the decisions they make will not dictate their life. Just because they choose chemistry and physics doesn’t mean they can’t go to art college or be a plumber. Then beg them to become a plumber – they cost a fortune and always seem to have too much work to come and fix the screaming pipes in our bathroom.
This often starts with a brutal shock at the wave of work heading towards them. Around this time many of them are becoming real humans and better company; they could chat to you without criticising your driving, your clothes and how you walk. Or they might be able to do this with other adults, just not you, and that’s almost enough.
This is the most stressful year of their life to date. Parents hold their breath until the torture chamber of standardised testing racks them up, measures them and brutalises their brains.
Your job is to be support crew and coach, so try not to start a new full-on job this year or to be away a lot. They are likely to need their favourite food and your presence; the good news is it will be for a relatively short space of time. The bad news is this will be in retrospect. Hopefully, your teen will burst from the exam season as a wonderful, gorgeous adult, ready to take on the world. Good luck with that.
Do you feel guilty all the time about the way you have raised your children? I have always felt so guilty from day one: I didn’t give my kids enough of my time and I escaped to work as soon as I could, because mothering was so hard. Now my daughter is self harming, and I feel like all my parenting fails have come to haunt me like an evil spirit.
Trigger WARNING: Detailed referencing of Self-Injury (Self-Harm) or Non-Suicidal Self-Injury (NSSI) practices.
My daughter is almost 15-years-old and says she started self harming at about the end of year six. For the record, I only noticed these past school holidays, so that’s another thing to feel guilty about. It had been going on for over two years and I didn’t even know. If that doesn’t make you question your worth as a mother, I don’t know what would.
Scars and wounds
She cuts her thighs on the side, little slivers she makes with her razor. The whole side of her leg is just a mess of scars and wounds. It breaks my heart to see the damage she has done to herself and I feel sick writing it down right now. From what she tells me, the cutting started quite small, but has escalated. Now she cuts herself “most days”.
She tells me she has tried many times to stop, but trying to stop only makes her cut more. The last time she tried to stop, she also stared burning herself with a cigarette lighter. I think that scared her as it was around this time that she started to get less vigilant about covering up, and I saw the mess on her legs. I am convinced that she wanted me to see, but she denies this.
I am so frightened by this, literally shaking with fear. I would do anything to end this for her, but she will no accept any help. I even threatened to tell the school so they can also keep an eye on her, but it doesn’t faze my daughter. It’s like she wants to keep cutting and I don’t understand that at all.
I’m told that it is ‘none of my business’ and she won’t even go to our family GP even though I’ve begged and begged her to get help. She had an ear infection and wouldn’t even go in to see the doctor because she didn’t trust me not to tell him about her cutting.
How do you make a girl that doesn’t want help, get help? The fact that she won’t open up to me only exacerbates my feelings of huge guilt and I’m terrified for her. She won’t talk to me about it and instead just blatantly continues on doing it, even though she knows how upset I am. If she’s not talking to me about it, if I can’t help her, then who? I’m am devastated that she is doing this on her own.
I’ve let her down badly
To not know why your child is doing something so drastic is just the most frigthening feeling. If I had been there for her more on a daily basis, I can’t help feel that this would not have happened. I worry about her constantly and rarely even sleep at night. I’m exhausted, but a part of me knows to stay vigilant 24/7.
I fear she will escalate her behaviour and might hurt herself badly enough to require medical attention. I feel sick that something might happen and I won’t be there to get her to casualty or all an ambulance. She tells me she is not suicidal at all, but how can I trust that to be true? The worry is just eating away at my insides.
I know I’ve let my daughter down so badly and that’s partly why I am hovering over her now. It’s all well and good to say that mothers should have lives that are not just mothering, but from the perspective of a mother who has severely dropped the ball, I disagree. I should have been there for her. That’s all I can think about.
It makes her feel better
When I asked her WHY she is self harming, she told me that it makes her feel better. Which just seems like such a contradiction to me that I cannot get my head around it. She was never a particularly anxious kid growing up, but she has become more anxious now.
I think the cutting is some kind of weird coping mechanism for her anxieties. I imagine that letting blood flow out might feel like a release of emotions that she can’t express in other ways. It just makes me shudder to think that it has come to this for my beautiful daughter.
It’s all very well for people to advise that you ‘get help’ for your teen, but if they won’t go, they won’t go. I have threatened so many things, but she just laughs in my face. And still the cutting goes on.
If you, or someone you know, are in crisis and urgently need help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800. If you are in immediate danger, call 000 right now.
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