“Mom, dad, I want to be a gamer.”
If you grew up in an era before gamers, YouTube, social media, and the like, then that phrase probably gives you pause and fills you with a bit of fear.
The modern obsession that many kids have with video games can be confusing to parents who may have grown up only playing Mario on the weekends. Add in the multiple voices and resources shaming parents that let their kids play too many games and have too much screen time and the confusion increases.
If you’re like the majority of parents, you want what’s best for your children. You want to encourage them to make good decisions, have healthy hobbies, and to grow up ready to live in the real world. Yet, all around you, people are whispering that video games are a hindrance to those things.
At the same time, if your kids show a deep interest in gaming and they’re determined to spend time learning and playing, the last thing you want to do is hold them back. Instead of diving fully into one camp (no video games ever or all the video games with no restrictions) you need to learn to find balance and create healthy boundaries.
To help you get started, here are the things you should know about gaming.
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Get to Know the World of Online Gaming and Esports
Most parents remember the days of early Nintendo and Sega; sitting down with a clunky controller, right in front of the TV, playing an animated game to try to beat the computer. Those video games were a huge technological advancement at the time, and the kids who had an at-home console were considered incredibly lucky.
These days, video games come in a much simpler form. Smartphones and tablets have the capability to download multiple video game apps. Consoles such as the Nintendo Switch, Playstation, and Xbox, all have wi-fi capabilities that let users play with people from around the world.
Whether on a video game console or a mobile device, online gaming has taken the reins. Most games released these days have online gaming capabilities, with some of the most popular being Minecraft, Fortnite Battle Royale, Halo, Call of Duty, Splatoon, and PUBG.
When it comes to gaming vs eSports, it’s important to understand the difference. While both are done online with other players, eSports is professional gaming. In eSports, players compete against each other, often for a monetary reward.
It’s been speculated that there are nearly 3 billion gamers in the world, a number that is growing quickly and steadily each year. Of those 3 billion, there are tens of thousands of professional gamers who make money playing eSports. In fact, professional gaming is growing dramatically, with eSports scholarships being awarded by multiple colleges and universities.
Learn the Lingo
To understand the world of gaming, parents have to learn to speak the language. Terms like gg (good game) and Steam (an online gaming platform) are important to know so that you can communicate with your gamer child.
Here’s the gaming lingo you need to know if you have a gamer child:
- AFK – Away from keyboard.
- Avatar – Each player’s “person.” Their avatar is what they look like in the game.
- Boss – If you played Mario, you know what the boss is. It’s the big bad guy, the final person to beat on each level.
- Camping – This term refers to camping out in one spot. If someone is camping, they’re putting themselves at an unfair advantage.
- Easter egg – If there is an easter egg in a game or a level, it means there is something hidden and hard to find.
- FPS – First-person shooter. In these shooting games, players see through the eyes of the character.
- Glitching – A player who uses a game’s glitch to get ahead.
- Killstreak – The number of kills a player can gain before they are killed or lose.
- Lag – When the player’s moves are not matching up with the timing on screen.
- Loot – The things that one player collects from another player after killing them.
- MMORPG – Massively multiplayer online role-playing game. These are games played with an enormous amount of people, typically fantasy or sci-fi.
- Mod – The ability to change part of a game. Stands for “modification.”
- Noob – Someone who is new to a game and therefore lacks experience.
- PvP – Player vs player.
- PvE – Player vs environment.
- Respawn – When the player comes back to life.
- Skin – Customizations to an avatar.
- Twitch – A platform for streaming video games. Users stream while they play and chat with their fans.
- Wrecked – Defeated.
- XP – Experience points, measuring the player’s progress in the game.
Understand the Environments
Unlike in the past, today there are multiple ways to play video games online. There are numerous video game consoles, mobile devices, and PCs. Some games are only compatible with one platform, while others have versions designed for every platform.
You’ll want to know the difference between platforms to make sure your child gets the right games.
PC games are played on a desktop computer or laptop. Games are purchased, downloaded and played directly on the device. Not all video games come in a PC version, while some games are designed to only be played on a PC.
When it comes to video game consoles, the three most popular ones are Xbox, Playstation, and Nintendo Switch. Most video game developers make a version of each game for every console; however, for a game to be played on a specific console, the player must have the right version for the one they own.
Mobile games are designed to be played on a mobile device such as a smartphone or a tablet. App developers create mobile versions of games that can be played on the device. Keep in mind that not all video games have a mobile version.
Make sure you know what devices and consoles your gamer plays on so you can be sure to get them the exact games they need.
Know What Games Your Child Prefers
There are so many different types of games. If you don’t know what your child likes to play, it can be hard to find them anything. From sports games to fantasy to sci-fi to crafting to RPG, different types of video games are as unique as the people that play them.
It’s important to know what types of games your child likes to help them find new games to play, as well as to buy them games that they’ll enjoy. For gamers, not all games are alike. Many people prefer Madden and other sports games, while some gamers despise sports games and prefer shooting or war.
Instead of buying them random types of games to try to spark their interest, talk to them and learn what they like. Then, when you get them new games or join them on one they already have, you’ll know the type of game to choose.
Know the Mechanics of their Preferred Games
Take the time to learn about your child’s favorite games. Learn how to play them, what the terminology is, and what the goals of the game are.
There are many reasons why you should learn about your child’s favorite games. If you understand the ins and outs of the games they’re playing, you’ll be able to talk to them about the games – and even play with them. This creates connection and gives you an opportunity to engage with them on something they enjoy.
Not only that, it will enable you to troubleshoot and help them if they experience an issue with their game.
Know Who Your Child is Gaming With
Everyone knows there are multiple dangers online. In fact, that may be one of the main reasons you’re reading this article, hoping I’ll address the stranger danger of the online world.
Don’t hesitate to talk to your child, straight out asking them who they talk to when they’re gaming. Get names, determine who your child knows locally, and who they met online. Make sure that you have open and honest communication with your child. Take inventory of who they’re talking to and how they met them.
Above all, make sure your child knows how to recognize online dangers so that they can back off on their own when you’re not around.
Understand How Online Privacy Works and What Risks Your Child Could Face
While gaming is fun, it also comes with risks. Understanding the potential risks your child faces when they game online and what online privacy should look like will help you keep your child safe online.
Teach your child about the dangers on the internet and how to recognize them. Keep an ongoing conversation happening about people they are connecting with online and what that should look like. Talk to your child about keeping information private online, even when they feel like they’re really connecting with someone.
Most online games, video game consoles, and mobile devices have options for parental controls. With these settings, you can control multiple aspects of your child’s gaming environment, including which games can be played, whether they can chat with other players, and the types of media they are exposed to. You can also set timers to limit the length of time your kids are able to play. Parental controls enable you to create a safe gaming experience for your kids that is appropriate to their age level.
Know that Gaming Could be a Good Thing
While screens and gaming are still a relatively new concept for many parents, it’s important to keep a level head and remember it’s all about balance. There are many benefits to gaming, including:
- Improving mental dexterity,
- Increasing the brains’ gray matter,
- Helping build problem solving skills, and
- Increasing social skills.
When it comes to gaming, boundaries are key. Gaming can actually be an incredible tool for learning and growth. Help your child understand the types of games they can play and those they can’t. Be clear about whether your kids can chat with other players and the types of things that are acceptable to chat about. You can also help your child gain awareness of how their body feels when they’ve been gaming too long so they know when it’s time to take a break.
Hopefully you understand gaming a bit better and you’re no longer afraid of your child diving into the land of a gamer. If you have any experiences with online gaming, make sure you share your stories and your tips.