Good Digital Parenting
Blog | Aug. 5, 2015

What Parents Should Keep in Mind When Gaming With Their Child

Intern, Family Online Safety Institute

With an 8 year old brother and a 48 year old dad, I’ve learned my fair share about Clash of Clans.

 Yes, it is quite a popular game for both elementary aged kids and middle aged men. As a matter of fact, my dad and brother play in the same clan as my brothers friend and his dad. Through this experience, I’ve seen my dad and brother strategize how to win a battle over dinner. I’ve overheard them smack talking players with names like smellyfeet46 or ilovebacon85. But I’ve also heard them yelling at each other because someone forgot to put up the shield... or it’s someone’s bedtime.

When parents and their children play games together whether on an Xbox, on a parent’s iPhone, or another device it provides them an opportunity to spend quality time and explore technology together but sometimes it can be hard to avoid arguments. After seeing the trial and error of gaming together in my household, here are some things to keep in mind:

Parents should explore the game or app and its various settings before the child- Take advantage of being the parent and play alone for a bit.  But more importantly check settings, determine privacy settings, and what should be and should not be accessible to your child.

Talk before picking up the console or portable device about acceptable behavior for your child- Parents should talk to their kids about gaming behavior- what are the household expectations parents hold for their kids about what they do while playing. Whether it is not to message players they do not know personally or always play in the common areas of the house, it is important for parents to set these standards.

Approach the topic of adult content- Talk about the potential adult content or inappropriate content your child may see and how to handle it. After having explored the game, explain anything that your child may be unfamiliar with. If you’re child is new to playing violent games explain what they may see. If the game has uncensored message boards/ messaging system explain what inappropriate messages look like and how to address them.

Set limits and stick to them- Parents need to follow the rules as well as set the example. If you said you wouldn't play at the dinner table or would only play until 8:30pm stick to it. This allows you to separate parenting from playing. By following the rules set for your children, you can lead by example and maintain authority.

Make plans to do something that doesn't involve a screen- Although playing a game together may allow for some bonding time, make sure that you are doing activities with your children that don’t involve a screen. Maybe play catch, a board game, or go to the pool. Doing activities outside of the digital world not only allows another avenue for bonding but there are a wealth of health benefits to reducing screen time.

In addition to being an opportunity for you to get to know the games your children are playing, playing on apps or video games together can be a fun way to connect with your child. Gaming together allows parents and their children the opportunity to communicate and foster a shared interest. By taking strides to learn about the game, play the game, and put standards and limits in place parents can preemptively avoid arguments and assert control.