OBAL 027: Parents’ Call of Duty: How to Manage Video Games with Your Kids!

Tracie and I both grew up with video games. In fact, our generation experienced the birth of video games. Do you remember the pong game? Who knew you could have so much fun with two lines and a dot. The magic was in the ability to move them on our televisions. Never before had there been that level of interaction. Then fast forward to computers like the Commodore 64 and the early IBM models that gave provided the power of the arcades without having to leave the house. Atari, SEGA, Nintendo, Nintendo 64, SEGA Genesis…the list goes on. Who better to parent today’s generation of gamers than us right?One Badass Life Podcast How to manage video games with your kids

Not so fast. Have you seen what today’s video games are like? They are graphic in nature; look as real as watching a movie and the speed is amazing. There is a fine line in what you feel is appropriate for your kids to see and this line is going to be different for every parent. However, there is a line and as parents, it is your Call of Duty to make sure you engage through video games with your kids. As parents of two avid video gamers, we want to share our five goals to keep our kids video gaming under control.

The first goal is Priorities. Our boys are well versed in their priorities and can list them out when requested. Setting priorities before you have a gamer is easier but requires constant reinforcement. Converting an avid gamer takes more persistent and may require some “cold-turkey” moments. Priorities will vary between houses, however our boys’ priorities in order are:

  • School – They must go to school. Odd that we have to clarify that but it happens. School is their job and they have a responsibility to learn.
  • School work – Any homework, projects and daily reading needs to be completed prior to any gaming.
  • Chores – They have a daily list of chores that must be tended to. Ignoring these chores will result in gaming restrictions.
  • Sports/ Activities – Commitments to a sports team or other activities will always take precedence over gaming.
  • Family Events – These are not optional. This includes everyday events like dinner to birthdays and parties.
  • Sleep – As we talked in an earlier episode, kids need sufficient sleep. Lack of sleep due to gaming is not acceptable.
  • Gaming – Bottom priority. If everything above is considered and handled, then they can play their video games.

The second goal is Game Selection. There are a lot of different games out there. Each game is going to have elements that you like and dislike. The system that your kids have will also drive which games they can get. I tend to separate the games into four groups:

  • Family Friendly – This would be the fun interactive games with a cute little cartoon animal that jumps around or the dancing games that are actually a great workout. These are not even on my radar. If the kids want to play these, let them.
  • Shooters – Now we are getting graphic. You can have blood, guts limbs falling off, people dying all wrapped up into one fun game. Game play within the shooter games can vary as well. A typical game will have an offline campaign as well as an online multi-player match.
  • Sports Games – Every sport out there has a game designed after it, even fishing! This type of game may actually pique you kid’s interest in the game and actually help them understand the positions, plays and terminology better. The only concern here focuses on our third goal, so I will wait until then.
  • Violent Games – You might say that the shooters are violent and you would be correct. However there is another group of games that takes the violence to a potential unhealthy place. The star of this group is GTA. Portions of this game are unacceptable because they include shooting people in a free-roam environment without any objectives.

The third goal is Online Interaction. As mentioned before, most games have two modes, offline and online. One of the cool features with online gaming is the ability to talk with others who are online as well as those playing the game. As with most things with our kids and interaction, there are good and bad circumstances that they can get in.

  • Good – The systems allow your kids to create a friend network. Once they are friends they can see what games each other are playing when they are online. This can be a great social outlet for kids to react in an arena that doesn’t require them to be face to face.
    • Rules about friending – our rules on friends are that people from school are always okay. Friends that they meet online have to be handled differently and can be removed at our discretion.
  • Bad – Just as any other space in this world, there are predators in online gaming. Tech savvy people can interact with our kids in a short amount of time to figure out their login and gain access to their account and your credit card. Even worse they could find out where you live and you don’t want that.
    • Rules about online interaction – Our kids know to not discuss the following online:
      • Name – they use their gamer tag
      • Where they live – stop at state
      • Age – Why do they need to know this?
      • Activities – don’t share that we are leaving the house or that we are out and they are home with a sitter.

The fourth goal is Gaming Etiquette. Does it seem odd that we teach our kids etiquette for gaming? No. This is an avenue that they use to interact with their friends, family and total strangers. They should be respectful within gaming as well. Who knows how technology will evolve in their lifetime. We focus on:

  • Language – a lot of these games will have some language that you don’t like. We make certain that our boys know that this language is not acceptable outside or inside of gaming.
  • Yelling – There is nothing I don’t understand more, when my boys are yelling at each other through their online game when they share a wall. The root cause of this is simply that the volume on their headphones is too high.
  • Golden Rule – Yep it applies to gaming too!

The fifth and final goal is Be a Gamer Too. Now this can be hard and demoralizing. They are younger, have faster reactions and reflexes. They will beat you into a pulp. So what! Join them in their space every once in a while. Of course we don’t have the time or patience to be good at these games, but that is not the point. Try it for these reasons:

  • Time – it is not on your side and forcing them to do something you want to do isn’t always going to work. They will be adults sooner than you want and you will have missed this opportunity.
  • Fun – Watch out and you might have fun. As they focus so much on their score, I am just running around trying not the die so many times and it turns out being fun.
  • Relate – Gaming is a part of most of our kids’ lives. They are going to relate a lot of their real life interaction to their games. Better to understand what they are saying so you can communicate with them.

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