X-Box. Playstation. 3DS. Switch. If you haven’t heard of these gaming systems yet, chances are you will become familiar with them in the coming years. Our children are growing up in an increasingly electronic (and increasingly virtual) world. Their peers and television will no doubt influence them to join the community of console users, but how young is too young to begin gaming?
I’ve seen some really cute pictures of dads posing for pictures with their newborn holding a Nintendo game controller. I’ve also seen preschoolers throwing tantrums because they can’t live more than a few hours without playing Call of Duty. Parenting is all about balance. A little common sense and a few basic guidelines should help you create important guidelines for your child’s video game use.
Let’s talk money, because no matter how much of it you have, you should set the example on how to use it early on in your child’s life. Some video game consoles can be in the $300-$400 range. If your child is still breaking coloring books and throwing legos, then they are definitely too young to own a gaming console.
$300-$400 could go a long way in buying your child high quality age appropriate toys. If you are in the position to spend that much money, have your child compare a shopping cart full of toys adding up to the same value as the console to the console itself (no games included.) Most kids will go for the full cart (and so should you.)
2) Screen Time
Limiting screen time is a must for all young children. Kids should spend their time engaging in hands on experiences, getting messy, and interacting with others. Television and computer screens replace hands on experiences and lead to difficulties in attention, concentration, and social emotional development.
If your child does spend video games, make sure you set time limits early on. 30 minutes is more than enough for 4-5 year olds, and 1 hour is a solid amount of time for children 6-9 years old. If you are worried about your child complaining, make sure they are too busy to even think about whining. Your child’s schedule should be full of opportunities to exercise, play, and engage in music and the arts. Video games can be one source of entertainment, but they shouldn’t be the only one.
3) Age Appropriateness
You know your child and you know what they can handle. It’s easy, however, to be swayed by seeing what other parents allow their child to do. The best way to know you are making the right decision is to do your own research. Games with mature ratings are totally inappropriate for young children. In addition to reading up on game ratings, look at footage of each potential game on YouTube. You will be surprised to see how violent many popular games are.
There are plenty of alternatives available for youngsters. Sports games, puzzle games, and classics such as Super Mario as typically solid choices that you can feel confident in. Playing these games alongside your child also ensures that they are playing games that are appropriate and enriching.
Video games are a hot ticket item right now. Making them work for your family can be easy with the right amount of planning, research, and interaction. However you choose to approach the virtual life with your child, remember that you are the parent and you are in control. Trust your instinct and you will make the right decisions!