Screen time. It makes many parents groan, especially during the summer following over a year of online and hybrid school. Unplugging is important and so is the down time that allows our kids to find and foster their own interest. But if their interests center around gaming, use this to your advantage. Use video games to connect with your kids!
4 Ways to Use Video Games to Connect with Your Kids
Connections in the digital age are just as important to our kids as in real life ones. Video games don’t have to be a dividing factor for families. Here’s how you can use video games to connect with your kids to build relationships and support their short and long term social and emotional development.
Understand the Social and Emotional Benefits of Video Games
It’s easy to write off video games because of screen time but they’re a form of play. Play has been important to our kids’ development since they were infants.
Video games differ from the imaginative play your kids did as preschoolers and the card and board games you love during family game nights but play in any form is essential. Just like other games, video games are entertaining, engaging, and fun
“Mood management and mood repair strategies refer to techniques that a person can use to shift their mood from a negative mood to one of greater contentment of happiness. From sadness to happiness. Or high stress to lower stress.”
Kowert believes video games are a particularly efficient vehicle for mood management. She says “good games (well-designed games) engage players in a way that meets basic psychological needs as humans. They give you a sense autonomy (you are free to make your own choices and have control), competence (you can achieve things, be successful), and relatedness (connecting with other villagers and your friends via online play).”
According to Dr. Kowert, these three components – autonomy, competence, and relatedness – are universal. They’re also thought to be essential for psychological health and well-being of an individual. When these needs are met through play, we feel good, happy, and satisfied.
Understanding the social and emotional benefits video games can have for our kids is important. So many times we’re quick to say no to screen time but saying yes is the first step in understanding how we can use video games to connect with kids.
Be Game Savvy
Your kids are a great source of information about favorite games but when they come to you with new titles, check out the ESRB rating. These ratings provide parents with a baseline understanding of interactive gaming content and guidelines for which age range a particular game would be appropriate.
Since not all children have the same level of maturity, these 3 tools from ESRB provide additional information for you to make informed decisions for your family:
- Content Descriptors provide more in-depth information on what’s in the game will help you make that final decision
- Rating summaries provide more contextual information around how content is presented to the player
- Interactive Elements to let you know when a game includes the ability to make in-game purchases, communicate with other players via text or voice, and more
ESRB ratings provide information that can help us start conversations with our kids about games they want to play. It’s always ok to say no to your kids if you feel a game isn’t appropriate for them. They’ll appreciate understanding the why behind the no, especially if you share your safety concerns with them.
Ask Your Kids About the Games They Love
Video games can feel intimidating. There’s a lot to know from different console types, the various games our kids love, and the mechanics of game play. The good thing is our kids are experts and have a lot to teach us about video games if we let them.
Asking your child about the games they’re playing shows you’re interested in them. Here are two more questions you can ask them and the insight you can gain from their responses:
- What do you think you’re learning from the game? Many times video games feature “unintentional learning.” Dr. Kowert says learning new information and new skills are not the explicit goal of video games, but are an “unintentional consequence” of playing them.
- Are there friends that you play with? We know that our kids love to play video games with others. Dr. Kowert says this is because “connecting online through a video game is uniquely different from connecting socially online through an online forum or social media” Actively engaging with others, collaborating, or competing against each other provides shared experiences that allow our kids to form connections.
Include Video Games in Family Game Night
Since technology is an effective way to foster connections and build relationships with your children, include video games in family game nights. Video game nights are a way to spend quality time together playing games you love.
When we sit down to play together, we use our Nintendo Switch. We love the variety of games and the ability to connect through games at home or on the go. I’ve also found that Switch games can inspire offline learning and foster a love of STEM through Nintendo Labo!
Here are 10 family friendly titles to check out this summer as you use video games to connect with your kids:
- Animal Crossing: New Horizons
- Just Dance 2021
- Mario Golf: Super Rush
- Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
- Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit
- Pokémon Snap
- Overcooked! All You Can Eat
- Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury
- Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
This summer Nintendo created monthly calendars featuring the most popular Nintendo Switch titles.
The calendar inspires parents to use video games to connect with your kids around game play. It features the titles mentioned above and fun challenges that you can take on as you play together. There will be a new calendar available for August!
As you consider buying new games for your family video game nights, be sure to check ESRB ratings to make sure it’s right for your family.
Nintendo provided me with games to facilitate this post but no compensation was received and all opinions are my own.