I can still remember a time where playing online games was out of the norm. Back then, not many of us had game consoles, and most computers lacked the hardware for PC gaming. We would go onto websites that hosted Flash games like Boxhead, Plazma Burst, and Raze to get our dose of fun. The advent of smart devices with increased computing power allowed you to play more complex games on the go; out with the Snake and Blockbusters, in with the Angry Birds. Online gaming’s transition from the fringe to the norm was a gradual process but had flashes of brilliance along the way.
Today you’d be hard-pressed to find a child who isn’t familiar with household gaming names like Minecraft and Fortnite. Games today are plastered in every corner of our life, fused into our pop culture. It’s thus no surprise that some parents are looking to understand this phenomenon. But like every activity, online gaming for children is a double-edged sword. Here are some pros and cons regarding gaming to see if you want to introduce online games to your child.
Pro: competitive outlet
As many gamers will tell you, online games fulfil the need for us to compete against others. Competition is beneficial for children because it motivates them to put in their best effort, establish self-esteem, and teach them to accept and move past failure. A competitive outlet is a common need for many people, and gaming helps fulfil that in an accessible and exciting way. There are numerous anecdotes of gamers who started out because they had suffered an injury. As a result, they relied on games to fulfil their competitive urge while recovering. Having a relatively safe and controlled environment for kids to discover themselves can hugely benefit their development.
Pro: improved skills and knowledge
There are a variety of things that online games teach children. Some are set in periods of history, taking advantage of their setting to educate the audience about the past’s vibrant culture and intriguing events. Others use their narrative or setting to convey themes about what is right or wrong and its implications for the player and the world around them. Underlying these lessons is often the subconscious improvement of hand-eye coordination, problem-solving and critical thinking, alongside having a better eye for details. Online gaming for children thus creates a simulated environment for them to hone their abilities in a fun and interactive way.
Pro: social bonds
Many gamers credit their game for their friend network. Like any other activity, gamers bond together over their shared love of the game and what makes it unique to them individually. Online games thus act as a platform to connect players, negating geographical boundaries and giving your child the opportunity to make new friends.
Many online games let you play with friends on the same team or against each other.
This helps your child learn how to make and maintain friendships with their peers and gives them a starting point to befriend each other, both online and offline.
Con: addictive nature
It is easy to see why online games remain so tantalizing for children by their flashy and thrilling nature. Unfortunately, games tend to reel in their players into coming back again and again. Some games even design their system to provide periodic rewards that incentivize players to log back in. Without proper moderation, extended gaming periods lead to too much screen time. This might be a distraction to other important life priorities. Beyond demanding a child’s attention to play, causing them to focus a lot less, online games can drain away time needed to study, exercise, and even sleep. This is further compounded if your child struggles with mental health issues. Being addicted to games can translate into aggression when your child performs poorly in-game or if asked to stop.
Numerous online games in recent memory have implemented gambling mechanics. They might be card packs that have a chance at containing your child’s favourite character or provide a random upgrade or outfit for your child’s account. No matter how these mechanics are presented in-game, they involve paying a set amount of money for a chance at a reward, which is the definition of gambling. High-grade rewards are exceedingly rare, which incentivizes players to spend more money to try to get them. It is not advisable to expose your child to such mechanics, especially when presented in an innocuous and even attractive manner. The last thing you want is your child picking up gambling habits and engaging in irresponsible financial decisions.
Managing your child’s gaming
To make sure your child reaps the benefits of gaming while also minimizing the harm, I’d advise taking an active part in your child’s gaming activities. If you are a gamer yourself or familiar with games in some manner, you can try playing games with your child and setting an example for them. Highlight to them the importance of setting limits and a schedule, watching out for predatory game mechanics, and helping them overcome the failures they inevitably encounter. Perhaps as part of educating your child about using devices, inform them about the dangers of online gaming for children, but also be sure to emphasize its benefits. After all, we don’t want to shelter our children forever; we want them to grow into mature and capable adults who can manage risk and make their own choices.
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