Throughout our journey as parents, we have many chances to teach our kids and watch them experience life. There is nothing better than watching a child’s face when they area trying to learn something new and they finally “get it”. It’s amazing. Of all the tools and experiences we can use to help teach our kids, there is one thing that can do the same thing for them – gaming.
That’s right, gaming. I think I felt a glare from every Mom I’ve ever met. I’m not talking about the stay up until 3am gaming your head off type of gaming. Been there, done that, wasn’t worth it. However, I encourage you to hang in there until the end of this post. I think you’ll have a new view on how gaming can affect your children.
1. Stranger Danger
“Stranger danger”. The phrase we’ve all heard on movies and TV so much, many don’t actually use it. Remember that scene in Kindergarten Cop where the Dad comes to take his Son while the kids are all in the hallway? All the kids are pointing at him yelling “stranger”. Boy, if it only worked that way, right? Well, when it comes to gaming, you can get a new perspective of “stranger danger” that a child involved in these games can relate to.
When we game online, especially at a younger age, we tend to let our guard down with our teammates. We get laid back, we even get lazy. Anyone who has played Call of Duty can understand how upsetting it is to befriend someone in a death match round. They want to work together. They want to trade weapons so you can both stay alive. They shoot you in the face. Believe it or not, this affects a child greatly. They’ve been betrayed and they learn that people online playing the same game are not friends. I’ve already experienced this with my oldest.
2. Critical Thinking
When games become so popular they are played by millions every week, you start to run out of strategies. You find yourself running into the same choke point, dying by the same guy standing next to his sentry gun. Laughing at you. Eventually, this proves to not be fun and you have to make a change.
Thinking outside of the box is required with many of these games and I can speak first hand to that. Take Minecraft for example. It’s not all block, block, kill a zombie, block block. No way. You find yourself in a position where your first 3 ideas to get out of a bad spot don’t work. This happened to Matthew and I recently in a game of Minecraft. There we were, surrounded by a couple zombies and 3 (yes 3) skeletons. I had a torch and Matthew had a block of wood. We were not fighting out of this and stood on top of the tree. It took a couple minutes, but eventually Matthew put together the plan to jump from one tree to another and if we fell, we’d at least be far enough away to run and not be swarmed.
3. Hard Work Pays Off
It’s an old cliché, right? Hard work pays off. Well, that’s true in gaming also. How many of us parents spent hours on the last level of Super Mario Brothers? You had to! There were angry bullets coming from every direction, on a ship that controlled the pace! Well, think about the time you got past the level and beat the game. What a sweet, sweet feeling that was. Accomplishment! When your child works hard at something in the game and gets the pay off, it’s a great symbol to be used later in life.
4. Learn From Failure
Back in my early twenty’s, I was an extreme gamer. I gamed until 3-4am and went to work at 7-8am most days of the week. Thinking back, I wish I had that kind of energy these days. Anyway, I can remember countless league matches that we lost. Personally, I was never too good at the games themselves, I was more about strategy. When kids play these games and lose, they get a chance to learn. What did they do wrong? How could they have done it differently? If you’re lucky, you get to actually see them work through those questions as they ready to try again.
Recently, I let Matthew play Overwatch on my laptop. He was having a great time beating up the easy bots I setup for him. Then he lost the round while still alive. He stepped out of the capture area going after an enemy, allowing them to take the point. He talked to himself over the situation and made a plan to stay on the capture point and not let anyone take him off. His team won the next round. Like with everything in life, there is so much to learn from failure and if our kids can learn to embrace and learn from it now, they will be better positioned in the future.
5. It’s Not All About Winning
Some of the best times I have had gaming back when I did all the time was just gaming with the online friends I made. You know, the other gamers you tend to game with more often than others. I was on a first name basis with these guys, of course I was also a young adult and don’t recommend such things for kids. However, games aren’t all about winning. There is teamwork involved, and when a child is part of a team they feel like they are apart of something bigger than them. This extends into any area of life, whether it be doing something with their siblings and Dad, to the junior sports team they are on, teamwork and sportsmanship is by far the biggest take away from any sort of gaming.
So many things a child can learn from gaming, yet so dangerous gaming can be without proper supervision. Only you know your children and what they can or cannot handle. With some children, gaming can lead to angry attitudes or worse, while others can feel like their life is nothing if they aren’t gaming. That is pretty serious. We have to be smart as parents and like we do with everything – embrace the good with the bad and ask ourselves “Is this best for my child?” with everything we do, because they are everything.