Parent’s Guide to Video Gaming
Video games are a popular form of entertainment for kids of all ages, but are particulary popular with young men and boys. A quarter of teens believe they spend too much time playing video games, while a similar share feels they spend too little time doing so.
Motivations behind video gaming vary depending on the child or teen, but research shows that video games allow youth to escape their problems, to try on different personalities, to socialize, and to engage in challenging and reward-based experiences.
What are the primary ways kids play video games?
There are many different ways to play video games, including:
- Console gaming, such as the PlayStation, Xbox, or Nintendo Switch
- Handheld video gaming, such as the Nintendo 3DS or Nintendo Switch Lite
- Computer gaming, played on a desktop computer or laptop, either as a downloaded game, in a web browser, or through a service like Steam
- Mobile gaming, such as those played on a smartphone or tablet via an app
- Virtual Reality (VR) gaming, including the HTC Vive and Meta/Oculus headsets
- Augmented Reality (AR) gaming, which can be played on a variety of devices
Regardless of the platform, many games have an online component, in which the game is played either partially or entirely online against other players. There are a vast number of different types of video game genres (and many games fit into several categories), but a few popular genres include:
- First-person shooters (Counter Strike: Global Offensive, Call of Duty)
- Battle royale games (Fortnite, PUBG, Apex Legends)
- Role-playing games (The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Path of Exile)
- Multiplayer online battle arena (Dota 2, League of Legends: Wild Rift)
- Action-adventure (Grand Theft Auto V)
- Social simulation games (Animal Crossing, The Sims)
How are video games rated?
Every game has a rating set by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) in North America and the Pan European Game Information (PGEI) in Europe to help parents make informed decisions when it comes to their child’s gaming. While these ratings can be helpful, it is always best to read reviews of a game, and watch your child or teen play, in order to get a better understanding of the content and if it is optimal for your child.
What do I need to know about violent video games and kids?
Many parents wonder if violent video games can make their children or teens aggressive or violent. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question, as violence is a complex issue. While research in the area of violence is ongoing, researchers have spent a lot of time studying how violent video games affect children and teens.
Evidence shows that playing violent video games has the potential to temporarily increase aggression. Parents should know that aggression can include increased angry or hostile feelings as well as reduced empathy for others (meaning that children might be less likely to help others in distress). Some children can become desensitized if they are continually exposed to violence in video games. Researchers are continuing to study how violent video games affect health and behavior.
Parents should make decisions regarding violent video games based on your child’s developmental readiness. Consider how well they talk about their feelings, calm themselves following upsetting or stressful events, and self-regulate their use of engaging media.
Can cyberbullying happen in online gaming?
Many online games allow the player to interact with others via text or voice chat. These features are often unmoderated, and players may be exposed to threats, offensive language, or other objectionable content. Female gamers in particular are often targets of sexual harassment. Unfortunately, many children and teens think that cyberbullying and aggression, such as insulting others and arguing via text or voice chat, are a common part of online gaming culture.
Can video games be educational?
Video games created specifically for education can help children learn in the classroom. However, just because a mobile game may be labeled as educational in an app store, doesn’t mean that it can actually help children and teens learn. Video gaming has the potential to improve functions such as visual processing and how the brain understands information, and many teens believe that playing certain games helps their problem-solving skills.
What is the connection between video games and health?
Video games can both contribute to, and harm, the overall health and wellbeing of children and teens.
Can my child be addicted to video games?
The idea of video game “addiction” has also become popular recently, with both the World Health Organization and the American Psychological Association identifying “gaming disorder” as a behavioral health concern. If you are concerned that your child or teen may be struggling with their sleep, grades, or other health-related issues as a result of their gaming, please contact the Boston Children’s Hospital Clinic on Interactive Media and Internet Disorders (CIMAID) to explore care options by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling (617) 355-9447.
Digital Wellness Tips
To help your child use video games in a healthy way, consider the following tips: