Christmas is around the corner and that means presents. For parents, that means stressing over what to buy for our kids. If your child likes to play video games, they might be asking for one of the new gaming consoles: the Xbox Series X or the PlayStation 5.
The Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 are top-of-the-line gaming consoles. They both have incredible graphics, lightning-fast speed, and many exciting games to keep your children wanting to spend countless hours on it. You want to be crowned the best parent in the world but don’t want your child to be consumed by video games. How do you find the right balance?
Here are three things parents should keep in mind when buying a new gaming console.
Lay the Ground Rules
If your child or teen gets a new Xbox or PlayStation, they will want to play as much as possible. Before they plug it in and gorge themselves with video games, discuss with them three things.
Discuss what your expectations are for your child related to playing video games. Talk with them about how chores, homework, and responsibilities have to be done prior to playing.
You expect them to listen to you and get off of the game when you say so (it’s helpful to give them a 10-minute warning if possible but not mandatory). They need to continue to exercise, get at least 8 hours of sleep, and keep up with personal hygiene.
Clearly communicating to your child your expectations will help both of you be on the same page and reduce conflict down the road.
Set up clear boundaries or limits to video games. I encourage you as a parent to think about and talk with your spouse about what boundaries you both want to enforce.
A boundary could be they have to talk with you about new games they want to play rather than simply downloading or buying it. It could be they can only play for an hour or two per night. It could be they have to get off in the evening at a certain time or can only play certain types of games.
Just like any other activity, set up boundaries of things that can and cannot happen around gaming to keep them safe and healthy. Most importantly, talk with your kiddo about these boundaries.
It’s not enough to just talk with our kids about what we expect. They will listen to us, or pretend to, but talking only goes so far. There has to be consistent consequences implemented when expectations are not met and boundaries are broken.
The consequence should be something your child does not like but not so severe it doesn’t fit the crime. An example of a consequence for not getting off the game when asked could be no gaming privilege for the rest of the night or next day. If they become angry or through a tantrum when they have to get off, then enforce a consequence for the disrespect and tantrum. If they are young children, a time out can work. If they are older, send them to their room without the privilege of using any technology.
It’s vital we tell our kids what the consequences will be for breaking expectations and boundaries. This must happen during a neutral time before gaming happens. It’s not fair for us to expect them to do exactly what we say with no consequence being discussed beforehand.
We also need to give them the benefit of the doubt. Let them play for the full hour rather than cut it short because we don’t like they are playing. Set them up for success by talking with your kids about how to have a healthy and fun gaming experience.
Learn About Their Games
One of the biggest issues I see in my practice is the gaming divide between parents and kids. Parents usually don’t understand the video game(s) their child is playing. This causes tension and disconnection in the parent-child relationship. And the worse the parent-child relationship is, the more problems and behavior issues can happen.
A way to break that gaming divide is for parents to learn about the games their kids are playing. Talk with your teen about what they like about Call of Duty: Warzone. Sit down and play Minecraft with your child. Even play the game together.
It’s easy to see all the bad things about video games, but there are a lot of positive things about them too. Rather than focusing on how violent Fortnite is, learn about the strategy, skill, focus, competition, and communication involved in playing. When we learn about our child’s video games without passing judgement, we build trust.
Addressing Gaming Issues
If we learn about an issue in our child's video games, have a conversation with them about it. Before you say anything negative about their game, pick at least three things you like about it. Then talk about the issue. Be kind and gentle in your approach. If boundaries need to be put up, then talk about that and put them up. Focus on the positives and address the negatives.
Learn About Their Console
The last suggestion I have is to learn about the device or console you gift to your child. If they get an Xbox Series X, learn about what a game pass is. Explore the parental control features and, if they are a child, set up a child account for them. You don’t have to know every detail about their device but it’s helpful to know how it functions and how to use parental controls if needed.
Enjoy this holiday with your family and kids. Let them play and have fun on their new gaming devices. Know that a few hours of video games per day won’t kill them. They won’t end up living in a van down by the river because you got them a PlayStation 5. Like food, it’s all about healthy consumption.
Focus on your positive relationship with your kids. Guide and teach healthy entertainment boundaries. Model the behavior you want to see from your kids. Empower them to make healthy gaming choices.
You work hard to mold your child into the best version of themselves and to be a contributing member of society. Trust in the work you’re doing and trust in your child. Happy Holidays!