Should We Get Our Kids Video Games for Christmas?

video gamesIt’s time to get that holiday shopping done if you haven’t already! I’m assuming that, since you are reading this, you have kids. Many kids, particularly boys, have video games, or a new console, at or near the top of their Christmas wish list. Is it okay to get them a console or (more) video games? Should we, as parents, be supporting our kids’ gaming habits? I wrote a detailed blog under Tech Happy Life at Psychology Today. However, I will do a very brief version here.

Tips on Getting a Video Game Console for Christmas

  • Be sure that you and your partner are the same page with regard to getting a console. Discuss the pros and cons and weigh them carefully.
  • Probably don’t get a console for kids younger than 6 years. Sticking with smartphone/tablet games is probably better for the younger crowd. Note that I’m NOT recommending that young kids have their own smartphones!
  • For kids 10 and under, and/or if you are concerned about video game violence, the Nintendo Switch is probably the best bet. Nintendo tends to have many more kid- and family-friendly games than the Xbox or Playstation. Plus, their games tend to be more innovative and whimsical/playful.
  • For older kids/teens, you might consider an Xbox or Playstation. Check with your child/teen to see which they prefer. It’s a bit of a coin toss here, but it’s probably best to choose the console that most of their friends have. That makes it easier for them to play the same games, online or in-person, and have more shared experiences.
  • Go over some do’s and don’ts of console use. Thus, your child’s use of the console is dependent upon their responsible use of it. Such considerations include when they can play, how long, what types of games, online behavior, etc. A big issue that should be tackled on the front-end is the importance of ending a gaming session when his/her time is up. Many conflicts arise over getting kids to put down the controller.

Tips for Selecting Video Games

  • Check the Entertainment Software Rating Board and Common Sense Media to determine which games are appropriate for your child/teen. You can also view clips of video game play on YouTube. While video game violence isn’t going to turn kind kids into aggressive bullies, we do want very young kids to be exposed to highly inappropriate content (e.g., a 6-year-old should not be playing the M-rated Grand Theft Auto V).
  • Watch your child play the game or play with them. This can help us get into our child’s world and understand them better. We might even enjoy playing the game with them! It can be very empowering for kids to teach their parents how to play a game – and to “take them to school” at the same time.
  • Select some slow-paced/strategy games for them to play. While it is fine to let our kids play some high-action games, the slower paced, strategic thinking found in some games can be good for them as well. Think of it as sort of a yin-yang of video games. We want to balance the fast with the slow.
  • Even if you do decide to get a console or video games for Christmas, be sure to get some board and card games as well. There are many wonderful options out there (e.g., Exploding Kittens, Fluxx, Ticket to Ride, Pandemic). We just need to be sure to put down our own screens and play with them!

I hope some of these tips help, and be sure to check out my full blog on Psychology Today if you want even more information. Happy shopping!

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