How can tech help or in some instances contribute to a breakdown in young people’s wellbeing?
Video games, like any media, aren’t good or bad in their own right. How helpful or how much of a hindrance they are, depends on the context in which someone plays them.
Video games create a virtual space in which to play, connect with other people and challenge our intellect, reactions and imaginations. These are spaces that tell stories as well as invite us on adventures or to partake in competitive battles.
This means that video games can offer children substantial wellbeing benefits. Many games provide space to talk about important themes, or actually address difficult topics directly.
In recent months, I’ve seen children in the families I work with find calm, control and connection in the games they have been playing. Particularly in online games where they can keep in contact with friends.
To capture these experiences, which can be hard to find for non-gamers, I created some lists for parents and carers:
My teen is spending too much time gaming since lockdown, should I be worried?
Although it can be concerning when a child falls in love with a new hobby, measuring our concern by how much time they are spending at their screen isn’t helpful. While children and teenagers need a balance of different activities, if a child is getting school work done, eating with the family and taking part in outside pursuits, we don’t need to worry even if they play video games for many hours.
The danger of this blanket worry over screen time is that we forget to engage with the actual activity our child is enjoying. Spending time watching a child play, rather than helicoptering when it’s time for them to stop, enables us to appreciate what it is they are doing. We can then guide their play from an informed position.
Complementing online game time (where a child connects with and talks to friends) with video games we play together can ensure that it is anchored as a healthy part of family life. This enables teens to talk to use more openly if they are finding their gaming is getting too overpowering, or if things that happen in their games unsettle them.
Along with some lists of games, I’ve created for resources for families such as AskAboutGames.com and the PEGI ratings offer excellent information on how to set up limits and controls on gaming hardware. Doing this with your teenager is a great way to engage their hobby and to agree on healthy limits for it.