Video games have come a long way since the 1980s when they were largely a hobby for either the technically savvy or the decidedly nerdy. Today, with the help of the internet, video games are a wildly popular and mainstream pastime.
The growth of online gaming should be no surprise. They have become more sophisticated, entertaining, and socially connecting for players than ever before, and this will only continue as technology improves. The popularity of online gaming shows no signs of slowing down.
Despite the widespread popularity of online gaming, there are a growing number of people who are concerned that gaming is introducing a host of new issues and risks. These can range from a lack of sleep due to excessive game time to cyberbullying to spending too little time outside to severe addictive behaviors. With all these concerns, you may be wondering, “Is my child’s gaming habit healthy?”
Have you ever wondered whether online gaming or eSports are healthy activities for your child? Here are some of the challenges and opportunities that might present themselves as your child gets more involved in the world of online gaming.
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The Challenges Facing eSports When It Comes to Our Kids
As described above, online gaming and eSports come with some challenges and risks, particularly for kids. Here are some of those challenges facing kids online:
A Lot of Parents and Adults “Just Don’t Get” Gaming and eSports
For decades, parents have been accused of “just not getting it” when it comes to video games. With the advent of online gaming and eSports, this accusation has become even more warranted.
A lack of understanding of online gaming, especially how it works and how it relates to the latest trend of eSports, can cause a magnification of concerns on the part of parents.
One approach to addressing this challenge: Parents with children interested in gaming and adults who are interacting with kids who game online need to take time to better understand gaming. For all practical purposes, this means that nearly every adult out there needs to learn about gaming.
Parents with children who are interested in playing online games competitively need to dig deeper into understanding eSports.
Health Risks Are a Real Thing When It Comes to Online Gaming
One of the biggest criticisms of online gaming is the potential for health risks. Sitting for hours at a time, often while eating snacks, can definitely have a negative impact on kids and their wellness.
Take it from my personal experience that a diet of sugary and energy drinks will not only impact your kids’ health but will negatively impact your wallet when it comes to dental bills.
And this doesn’t just go for elementary school-aged kids. College students, especially males, tend to exercise less and have poorer eating habits than their non-gaming peers.
One approach to addressing this challenge: Parents need to have real, ongoing conversations with their children about the importance of diet and exercise. Annual wellness checkups and frequent dental checkups are always important, perhaps even more so for kids who are gamers.
Help your kids balance their time inside and outside by doing things like requiring gamers to also participate in at least one outdoor activity. Our son played baseball all through school while also growing his eSports skills. Work together with your kids to make a plan and stick to it.
There are Definitely Toxic Players in the World of Online Gaming
Long gone are the days of the innocence of video games. The shift to online gaming has not only allowed gamers to play together in new ways, but it’s also brought elements of toxic behavior.
Just as in the real world, there are plenty of jerks online as well. Identifying toxic personalities and dealing with them (or avoiding them altogether) is a skill every parent should work on to help their kids build.
It won’t be easy, but doing this means parents must take time to learn about gaming and the online gaming culture and have open and honest communication with their kids about negative personalities on the web.
One approach to addressing this challenge: Parents should strive to keep an open dialog going with their kids about online toxicity and cyberbullying. The more communication flows between you and your kids, the more likely you will hear about issues and help your kids be equipped to address them.
Online Gaming Can Negatively Impact Sleep Patterns Resulting in Additional Issues
Sleep is essential for a healthy life. However, lots of gaming screen time has been shown to negatively impact sleep patterns. This is exacerbated when gamers play just before bed or late into the night, as many gamers tend to do.
One approach to addressing this challenge: Parents need to talk to their kids about sleep and the effects of gaming on their sleep. Dictating terms about sleep usually doesn’t work. Instead, helping them understand what happens when they don’t get enough sleep is often a better way to get them on board, so they will be more willing to partner with you.
Online Gaming and eSports Offer Some Significant Benefits, As Well
Despite the negative aspects of gaming discussed above, it’s not all doom and gloom when it comes to online gaming. Gaming can also offer some positive benefits for kids, like those we’ll explain below:
Online Gaming Gives Your Kids the Opportunity to Interact with Other Gamers Outside of Their Physical Region
One benefit is that online gaming and participation in eSports give gamers the chance to meet people inside and outside the area where they live. The technology of online gaming lets kids play with or against other players all around the world. This can help them gain exposure to new cultures.
One approach to embrace this opportunity: Parents can talk to their gamers about how they might encounter gamers from different cultures than their own during their online gaming experience. They can help their kids understand that having the opportunity to meet new people and experience different cultures is a great thing.
Online Gaming and eSports Give Your Child a Potential School-Based Activity
Some parents may be surprised to learn that, along with colleges and universities, more and more high schools are starting eSports clubs or teams. These organizations and activities give kids who love to game an opportunity to meet, game together, and discuss their favorite games, characters, strategies, and fandom.
One approach to embrace the opportunity: Find out if your child’s school has a gaming or eSports club or team. If they do, encourage your child to join it. If they don’t, discuss the creation of one with your school’s administration. Your kids might appreciate you showing interest, which can further help you build trust with them.
Online Gaming and eSports Gives Your Child an Opportunity for a College Scholarship
In addition to high school and college eSports clubs, a growing number of universities and colleges are offering scholarships for eSports. This gives kids who take their gaming seriously an added opportunity to get some, or all, of their tuition paid by participating in varsity eSports.
One approach to embrace the opportunity: Talk to your child about whether they foresee themselves gaming at a competitive level, help them identify whether they have the skill to play at a collegiate level, and work with them to look into college-level eSports scholarship opportunities.
Online Gaming and eSports Can Create a Social Circle for Your Child
As mentioned above, the internet has given gaming a new dimension: social community, which can be another benefit to kids.
A love of online gaming gives kids something in common with other kids, and with other gamers specifically. Whether it’s Fortnite, CS:GO, Rocket League, or other games, having a common game that they enjoy and play together can help your child create a circle of friendship. Yes, many kids are making friends online through gaming.
One approach to embrace this opportunity: Take the time to talk to your child about the people that they game online with. Consider asking these questions:
- Do they go to your school?
- Do they live near us?
- What kind of friendship do you have?
Take the time to talk to your kids and really understand who your child is interacting with during their gaming sessions, then encourage those relationships that are healthy.
I hope you’ve found these tips useful as a parent of a child who is involved in online gaming. If you have additional thoughts or ideas about the challenges and opportunities of online gaming for kids, post them in the comments below.