Parents – Is Gaming Bad for Your Kids?

gaming ps4

PS4 gaming system

Ah, gaming – a time honored past time of our youth that’s plagued parents for millennia. Yes, for thousands of years parents have watched as their kids were fixated on pixelated screens while mashing buttons on a controller. The whiz of discs spinning in a console has been drowned out by the wall-rattling sounds of explosions, gunshots, or repetitive background music. Parents would be “lucky” if their kid wore a headset to hide the gaming sounds except it would soon become obvious their child was even more unresponsive than before. Hours upon hours frittered away to “level up” or achieve a trophy. How did cavemen or pioneer parents deal with lethargic offspring shirking responsibilities and jeopardizing their health for the sake of video gaming entertainment? Surely, parents of the 21st century can just copy the tips and tricks employed by ancestral moms and dads to satisfactorily navigate the gaming conundrum.

Ok, so our ancestors were actually fortunate to not have to deal with such a parenting dilemma. No, this problem is one that’s burdening parents of the current generation for the first time in history. As technology advances and gaming becomes more immersive, the difficult decisions facing parents will only intensify:

Is gaming bad for your kids? Should you let your kid play video games?

Let’s examine how gaming has changed over the years and then take a look at aspects parents must consider when deciding if they should let their children be a gamer or not.

Old School Gaming

I was among the first generation of kids to be exposed to gaming. I fondly recall the days when I plopped down in front of the Commodore 64 to play Sid Meier’s Pirates! or Summer Games. Gaming was rudimentary back then compared to what’s offered now. I spent plenty of hours playing those computer games, but it was always a side venture. I didn’t live to play. Years later as gaming evolved, our family purchased the original Nintendo system, then later the Sega Genesis, and eventually the original PlayStation. The essence was always the same – wholesome video games like Super Mario Brothers or NHL 94 as an entertainment venue that was a supplement to other aspects of life. It wasn’t the main focus. I recall my gaming youth in fondness now – playing with my younger brother or friends. Gaming was simple, yet enjoyable. It didn’t corrupt morals, nor were the games so addictive that it took over one’s life. My parents were never really all that concerned with gaming getting out of control. Sure, they’d use gaming as a discipline device every so often. Meaning, we’d lose our privileges if we misbehaved. But losing those gaming privileges was almost always the result of some other behavior problem and had nothing to do with the gaming itself.

Gaming Nowadays

Fast forward to the present and gaming has evolved exponentially. The most recent, advanced consoles have been released in the Playstation 4 (PS4) and the Xbox One. The PS3 and the Xbox 360 have been out for around 7 years now and are the most popular and best selling gaming systems in history. I myself own a PS3 and, while I rarely have time to fire the system up these days, I can attest to what gaming is currently all about. The graphics are in impressive HD and the sound quality is top notch. Game plot lines are engrossing and are sometimes on par with Hollywood movies. Gaming is almost a 180 degree turn from where it was just 15 years ago. Games are more violent and sexual in nature. Online gaming has proven extremely addicting. It’s a completely different world – a world in which parents must be fully aware if they want to let their kids be involved in a healthy way.

If you are the parent of a boy from the ages of 7 to 18 years-old then undoubtedly you’ve been asked to purchase a Sony PlayStation or Microsoft Xbox gaming system for your son. Even young girls are being drawn into the gaming world these days. You may already be well-versed in the few pros and considerable cons of allowing your kid to be involved in gaming. If you’re new to the video gaming culture, on the purchasing fence, or even a gaming parent veteran, the following are important aspects you should evaluate before letting your child join the gaming world.

gaming xbox one

Xbox One gaming system

 

Gaming: Considerations for Parents

  • Financial/Budget Aspects – This is an important consideration, but not necessarily the focus of this article. Gaming can be quite expensive and can take a toll on your budget. The initial outlay for a gaming system will be in the hundreds of dollars. Individual games, such as the ever popular Call of Duty series, will be another $60 or so upon initial release. Several game purchases a year can add up. Consider renting games or purchasing used in order to save money.
  • Social – Ah, the social impact of gaming looms large. The primary reaction of parents is that immersing in video games means neglecting a social life. While this is, on face value, quite true – it’s not necessarily reflective of the real gaming world. Yes, your child will be eschewing face-to-face, real world social interaction. In-person interfacing, of course, is of crucial importance to social development. However, gaming has evolved to be heavily online. Thus, there is a large social aspect to gaming. If you allow your child access to online gaming, then he/she will be able to sync up with their friends in the online multiplayer options of various games. This should NOT be a replacement for “real life” social interactions. Meeting up for sports, study efforts, or even traditional slumber parties should be emphasized. However, be aware that your child’s social circle will likely be heavily involved in gaming and allowing your kid to participate will, to a certain degree, allow them to be included with everyone else.
  • Health - This is an important consideration that is becoming more prevalent as stories of kids suffering detrimental outcomes from gaming become disclosed. It’s all too easy to spend hour after hour glued to your seat gaming. I’ve been there even as a responsible adult. There have been stories of people developing blood clots and dying because they sat on their backside for countless hours gaming. That’s an extreme example, mind you, but it’s still all-to-easy to jeopardize health if a healthy balance is not maintained. A spare tire and strained vision can develop rather quickly. Do NOT let your child’s gaming habits sink to such levels. If you decide gaming is appropriate for you child, set parameters and make sure your kid adheres to them. Ensure they are getting crucial physical activity or exercise by whatever means. This applies to psychological health too (see Addiction below).
  • Addiction – Take it from me, gaming can be ridiculously addictive. How? Well, there are quite a few ways. Chief among them are the online gaming options. Most of these allow for continuous “leveling up” or advancing to the next level of status or perks. When all of your kids friends are competing to see who gets their fastest or who can achieve the best stats or highlights along the way, you’ve got a recipe for addiction. It can be bad too. And when addiction sets in, physical and psychological ramifications can occur. The more you let it get out of hand, the harder it will be to rectify. The best way to avoid such a situation is to set limits from the very get go and make sure you and your child are on the same page. Then, of course, you need to stick to your guns. Don’t let them take advantage or abuse the gaming world because they will if given the opportunity.
  • Adult Material – This is what gets most of the attention in the media and press. Undoubtedly, you’ve heard of such adult oriented games as Grand Theft Auto (GTA) or Call of Duty. Yes, certain games should be restricted or monitored. Games do have ratings, similar to movies, so you can use that as a guide. Just like the movies, you should evaluate on a game-by-game basis. It will also depend on where your child stands on a maturity level. Some kids will be more influenced than others. If your child is able to separate fiction from reality, then you can perhaps be more lenient with the level of adult oriented games they play. As a parent, this can be a difficult area to ascertain, but, in the event of uncertainty, I’d advise erring on the side of conservatism. Remember, it’s always easier to allow a game with mature content once the child has demonstrated the ability to deal with those concepts than it is to erase exposure at a premature age/maturity level.

The Verdict: Should Parents Let Gaming Be a Part of Their Kid’s Life

Only you can decide what is appropriate. Fortunately, for me, I’ve got a ways to go before having to make such an important decision since my son is only 15 months old. However, that could be a double-edged sword because by the time he might be interested in gaming, about 7 years from now, the next and more advanced generation of consoles will be available. Honestly, I don’t think I’d even consider allowing a child of mine to join the gaming world until at least 13 years of age. Even then, it would be a case-by-case basis considering that individual child’s development and maturity level. Gaming just isn’t as innocent as it was years ago and I can’t fathom exposing and letting my child succumb to the potential pitfalls that currently exist unless they displayed the ability to responsibly handle them.

If you, as a parent, decide to allow your child to enter the gaming world, I would advise you monitor/supervise their gaming activities as best as possible. Evaluate what games they want to play and how much time they are investing. Don’t let them prioritize gaming over more important responsibilities such as homework/studies, in-person social activities, etc. Trust me, it can be all too easy to neglect your parenting duties by letting your kid be distracted by gaming. That’s a parenting cop out. Be involved with your kid’s life. They may seem to resent you in that particular moment, but eventually they’ll realize how important and valuable your oversight actually was.

So, to sum up, gaming isn’t the end all, be all devil. It may serve as a helpful hobby and social tool for your child. But, abuse can easily set in. Be proactive in monitoring what games your child plays (exclude the GTA games) and set limits on how much time they play. Be strong in sticking to your rules. Gaming can be good for you and your kids if it’s approached in a reasonable manner.

What are your thoughts on gaming? Did you play video games growing up? Do you struggle with whether you should allow your kids to be involved or not? Would you give your kids free reign when it comes to gaming? Or would you put explicit rules in place and fervently monitor gaming activity?

27 Responses to Parents – Is Gaming Bad for Your Kids?

  1. Little House December 2, 2013 at 7:00 am #

    From a teacher perspective: it depends on the kid. Some kids are so engaged in video gaming that they have absolutely no social life outside of school and it’s very apparent in their social skills at school. Their creativity is also limited. For instance, if you ask them to write a story, the only topic they want to write about is video game characters or a video game “plot” – there isn’t one.

    However, most kids have a balance of social life outside of video games. This might be due to parent influence (making sure they get outside every now and then), but it may also be the child’s nature to want to do something other than video games every spare moment.
    Little House recently posted…‘Tis the Season to STAY MOTIVATED!My Profile

    • Mr. Utopia December 2, 2013 at 7:06 pm #

      The teacher perspective is quite intriguing. What grade level are you teaching? For the kids who do maintain balance, it’d be interesting to know if it’s mainly due to parental influence or if they truly are self-policing (my bet it’s a heavy does of the former).

      • Little House December 3, 2013 at 6:25 am #

        Middle school. For those that maintain a balance, it’s probably the influence of the parents – from an early age. They don’t allow them to play video games all day long and get them involved in sports and other outside activities. By middle school, you can tell those children apart from one another -those that have many experiences versus those that have very few apart from video games.
        Little House recently posted…‘Tis the Season to STAY MOTIVATED!My Profile

        • Mr. Utopia December 3, 2013 at 3:52 pm #

          And for sure these habits and trends only intensify as they get older and are in high school. Then, of course, this type of behavior will most likely stick with them through adult life too.That’s why it’s so important for parents to be heavily involved from the very get go and not try to capitalize on gaming as a “babysitter.”

  2. Brian@ Debt Discipline December 2, 2013 at 7:26 am #

    With 3 children ages 11-14 we are in the middle of video games all the time. My wife and I speak with our children about them and set guidelines. We do not allow game play Mon-Thur during school. We restrict wifi access during this time. So far this has worked well for us.
    Brian@ Debt Discipline recently posted…SupportMy Profile

    • Mr. Utopia December 2, 2013 at 7:08 pm #

      That’s awesome, Brian. Was there any push back? What about the types of games they want to play?

  3. Andrew@LivingRichCheaply December 2, 2013 at 8:47 am #

    Very informative post. It will be interesting to see other parents’ comments. My son is only 5 months so I have some time to figure it out. It will be hard to not have a gaming system if all other kids have it. When I was growing up, we were only allowed to play on the weekends. My wife’s parents were even stricter…only in the summertime! Well my dad was kind of strict with the types of games, he didn’t like the shoot’em up violent type games. I had some pretty “lame” games…though I still enjoyed them: for Nintendo (the only system I ever had) I had a game called “Wall Street Kid” Yes you trade stocks! haha.
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    • Mr. Utopia December 2, 2013 at 7:20 pm #

      Wall Street Kid – ha, I never heard of that one. I did play one that’s somewhat similar (it was a computer game called Capitalism). Those types of games were both entertaining and educational. Unfortunately, they don’t really make those types of video games on the mainstream consoles since they likely just wouldn’t sell. It’s too bad because those types of games are oftentimes more satisfying that “point and shoot ‘em up games.”

  4. DC @ Young Adult Money December 2, 2013 at 4:23 pm #

    I played a TON of games growing up, but I only get around to playing Madden nowadays (way too busy). I’m glad I don’t have to deal with this decision for a long time since I don’t have kids right now. I think it’s tough. I know people my age who have lost entire years of their lives from becoming addicted to WoW or other MMORPGs. It’s so easy to get sucked in and have it consume all your free time.
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted…3 Things That Motivate Me To Work Hard In My 20sMy Profile

    • Mr. Utopia December 2, 2013 at 7:24 pm #

      Yeah, role playing games are often the most addicting. I’ve never been drawn into one, but I imagine they hook people because they offer an “escape” from real life. I didn’t mention them in the article because, in general, it seems adults get caught up in that gaming genre more so than kids. But, it should still be a concern and on the radar of parents.

  5. krantcents December 2, 2013 at 5:30 pm #

    Like all things , you have to limit it. I want my children to have social lives, physical activity and do well academically. In order to achieve that, I want my children to do many things to help them develop themselves. Games can be part of it, but not all of it.
    krantcents recently posted…The Best Small Investments for Future Cash FlowsMy Profile

    • Mr. Utopia December 2, 2013 at 7:42 pm #

      I agree, balance is key. It seems the challenge or dilemma arises when your children push hard or rebel for more playing time or games with questionable material. That’s where it can be tricky…where setting rules may not work or backfire especially if the child’s friends have unlimited or unmonitored access.

  6. E.M. December 2, 2013 at 7:29 pm #

    This is a difficult decision for any parent to make. My dad was into gaming when I was young, and I would watch him play games until I was old enough to play them. It was mostly Zelda (still my favorite), so it wasn’t extremely violent or anything. We had an original Nintento, N64, PS2, Wii and Xbox360. My cousin, who I was close to at the time, started playing MMORPGs, and never looked back. I got into them at one point, and my dad was actually a bit addicted to them. Thankfully he stopped playing a while ago, but my cousin still plays non-stop.

    It can really be dangerous – he rarely ever comes out of his room to socialize when our family is there, he didn’t go to college because he has no ambition, and works a part-time job which still allows him plenty of time to play. It’s like nothing else matters to him, and it’s sad to watch. If I ever have kids, I would most likely restrict the time spent gaming, but that can be hard to do if they have their own computer in their room.
    E.M. recently posted…Luxuries Worth Spending OnMy Profile

    • Mr. Utopia December 2, 2013 at 7:59 pm #

      It’s a very slippery slope, indeed. The story you share is worrisome to most parents. I suppose some don’t care, but I think most probably do. Once it gets to that stage of addiction, it’s likely extremely difficult to breakaway. For parents, the key is to set rigid, but reasonable guidelines well in advance – before the gaming habits ever get that extreme.

  7. Jen @ Frugal Rules December 3, 2013 at 2:59 am #

    Just like any other things that kids love to do or have, I allow this but only to a certain point – not too much, not too little. Too much of anything can be bad just as too little could make them want to break free. A parent has to be consistent when it comes to what kids must follow but should know when to be considerate. Well I’m speaking from experience.
    Jen @ Frugal Rules recently posted…What Was the Last Thing You Put in Your Nose?My Profile

    • Mr. Utopia December 3, 2013 at 3:54 pm #

      Good deal, Jen. Moderation is definitely the key although I’m certain many parents struggle with achieving and then maintaining that balance when it comes to video games and their kids.

  8. SuburbanFinance December 3, 2013 at 5:51 am #

    I guess it depends on the kid and the game! It can be fine for some (depending on the games) and terrible for others.
    SuburbanFinance recently posted…How to Not Pay TaxesMy Profile

    • Mr. Utopia December 3, 2013 at 3:56 pm #

      That’s true, one kid will be able to handle gaming differently than another based on age, development, and maturity level. There should definitely be a case by case evaluation by the parents although I can see that leading to difficulties in multi-sibling households when one kid can handle it better than another!

  9. The Warrior December 3, 2013 at 6:18 am #

    I have a few years too, but it definitely is something I think about.

    I don’t have as big a problem with gaming as I do screen addiction. I am guilty of this and want my kid not to be addicted to looking at screens all day.

    I have personally made a conscious effort to get away from screens and will “train” my kids to do the same.

    As with anything, I think gaming is okay in moderation.

    The Warrior
    NetWorthWarrior.com
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    • Mr. Utopia December 3, 2013 at 4:00 pm #

      I hear you about the screens. Sadly, I’ll bet 90% of my daily awake time is spent staring at screens (work, blogging, personal computer time, and some tv). It’s tough to manage when you have a desk job. So, yes, staring at pixels is another possible drawback to gaming. I guess that’s when you’ve got to break out the old board games like Monopoly or Life and “force” your kids to play!

  10. Untemplater December 4, 2013 at 11:46 pm #

    I think gaming is fine if allowed in moderation and kept PG. There are so many super violent games that just can’t be good for kids to think is cool. I was into harmless games like Tetris and Doctor Mario when I was younger.
    Untemplater recently posted…Things NOT To Do If You Want To Be Rich And HappyMy Profile

    • Mr. Utopia December 5, 2013 at 1:19 pm #

      Games like Doctor Mario were wholesome and ones like Tetris were actually educational in a way. To me, those were the innocent days of video gaming. It’s a whole different ballgame nowadays. Moderation is a key theme for sure, but it can be tough to implement when you child isn’t cooperative.

  11. Jon @ MoneySmartGuides December 5, 2013 at 9:45 am #

    I played NES when I was younger. I don’t play much now but it’s because of how involved games are. I loved playing RPG and adventure games. Back then, there was one way to beat the game and it didn’t take too much time to do so. Now, there are various ways to beat a game and you can play forever without beating them. There is no set path for you to follow. Some may see this as great, but I don’t have the time to play endlessly. I want a path to follow. This is why kids play and play and play. Parents need to set boundaries on how long and often their kids can play video games.
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    • Mr. Utopia December 5, 2013 at 1:58 pm #

      Solid point, Jon, about games being more open-ended now instead of linear like they used to be. Even if present day video games are somewhat linear in the “regular campaign”, the multi-player options (which seem to come with every game released now) allow for continuous play. The end result is a massive black hole sucking up your time – if you let it (or let your kids succumb to it).

  12. Marissa@Financetriggers February 9, 2014 at 8:38 am #

    There’s a big difference in old-school games and games nowadays! When I was a child I used to play hide and sick where we play after we make our assignments and daily household chores. But now, It is easy to access and play anytime you want even without company unlike games in our times.

  13. il resto del carlino July 9, 2014 at 2:32 am #

    Complimenti per l’articolo, davvero interessante, spero tu possa pubblicare altre informazioni così interessanti in futuro, tornerò presto a leggerti. Buona giornata

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