In our previous post, we explored why teenagers want to get onto social media. It’s this desire to communicate that parents and educators must tap into. Instead of letting them feed into what social media dictates, really understanding the importance of parent-child communication is key to long lasting relationships. In this second installment on social media, I examine the first type of social media – gaming. I am not talking about games apps or games on facebook or google chrome. I focus specifically on game consoles such as Xbox/PS4 and laptop games. I believe checking the type of game your child plays is not only important, but that knowing what social communication those games provide for its players is extremely important.
For any healthy and long lasting parameters on social media to make a positive impact on you, your child and your social lives, you must know what is out there and compare it to your child’s actual needs. What they claim to need is not completely irrelevant. But in the grand scheme of you making an educated decision, you need to know better than them on what is out there. In short there are a few types or categories of social media. But for today, I will focus on social media/gaming.
Gaming – There are many types of games. Some games are on facebook. Others are on your phones. Some are on gaming consoles and yet some are standalone games you buy and install on your laptop. Here, I focus on gaming consoles and laptop games. Both have chat capabilities for players to engage in. Most laptop games require gamers to log onto servers and sign in. For example, Starcraft 1 & 2, or World of Warcraft require players to have an account. Gaming sites use this methodology to monitor players, enforce rules and censor certain behaviors to prevent cheating or bullying. Make sure you have your teenager’s password to those accounts. Why? It’s because most parents are completely ill-informed about gaming. Some only buy these expensive consoles or these laptop games as a way to reward, but others use it babysit their kids for them. I am resolutely against gaming if it is used for babysitting. It’s completely irresponsible for one to neglect the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of one’s child and let the TV, Internet, or games consoles babysit. Where are the real fun times? Where are the road trips? Gaming consoles usually allow players to chat, video chat and communicate. This media platform is usually unregulated by many parents. Game consoles have parental controls. Get a hold of that section and Google it. See what you can set and regulate.
Some parents have absolutely NO idea what is being said or viewed on these game consoles/laptop games. Kids as young as 8 could be exposed to foul and explicit language. Knowing what games your child/teenager plays and its online gaming audience that game serves is key. Each game is unique. Each console is unique. Don’t just select what games they play, but also look into what social mediums are used for that game’s participants. Be balanced. Perhaps they can play a game, but regulate if they are allowed to chat with headphones with teammates or opposing gamers. I must make it clear that not all game consoles or online games such as World of Warcraft chat/video/social networking are without regulations. Far from it. In fact some of them have very strict rules of language usage, cheating or bullying. But the point is that it’s your job as a parent to look into all aspects of games and the social networking each game provides before you make that purchase. Teach your kids the parameters of what is acceptable and not acceptable when playing online. If they don’t need to play online agains others but can complete and beat the game missions “offline,” then so be it.
More importantly, even if you have regulated and double checked these games/online gaming platforms, you as a parent must set and regularly enforce rules. For example, if you regulate that there is no gaming on weekdays then enforce it. Make sure that your other older children enforce these rules and not enable the younger. Some siblings turn a blind eye to each other so that they can also enjoy a bit of rule breaking themselves. Make sure you spouse is on the same page as you. Rules will be broken. But teaching them to be responsible is much more effective than taking away their privileges. You want a child or teenager who will respect the rules of their own volition and not because they fear you. This can’t be achieved if you’ve never set forth a healthy line of communication between you and your child since day one.