In the fifth installment of FOSI’s Ask the Expert Series, Dr. Elizabeth Milovidov asked Andy Robertson some questions about playing video games with your child and tips to make it a beneficial and valuable experience for both parents and children.
Andy Robertson is a journalist specializing in families and video games writing for Guardian, BBC, and Forbes. He recently wrote the Taming Gaming book for parents and runs the Family Game Database. He lives in the UK with his wife and three children.
The key thing is to create an environment where the child and the parents feel confident and safe. A part of this is finding the right game. I have a list of good first online games that can get you started.
You can filter the list by age and system you have. Once you have found a good game (Feather is a good example), play the game on your own so you see how online interactions work. Then play together with your child in a context where you can experiment together. The key is creating a context where you can fail together and have great conversations.
It's important to check the ESRB age rating of course. But also find games that fit the themes and hobbies you and your child enjoy. As well as appropriate content it's important to find games with the right skill level for your child. I have a list of games by skill level that can help.
You can filter these lists for your family. For example, how about a list of games for 4th Grade Kids on the Switch without Loot Boxes? You can pick those things and away you go.
Play is play. Whether it's up a tree, in the mud or on a screen, it has benefits in all sorts of ways. Playing together in a family enables you to enjoy some fun times together. You can compete or cooperate with your children. It's also a chance to have casual connections and chats with kids as you play more narrative games. Much like on a car journey you can talk about all sorts of things without it seeming too serious.
When children are playing on their own they are also benefiting from lots of developmental aspects. They are learning social skills, critical thinking, strategy and communication. But as well as this, aspects of play that aren't productive are also important for your child. Undirected play can offer children calm and escape from worldly worries. Safe spaces online can help them do identify work and develop friendships with peers. Playing in video games can also inspire interests in hobbies and pursuits that spill over into the real world and may even highlight a future career.