Great expectations. . . and how to manage them
With Christmas only around the corner, what can we do to ensure that our expectations of what our children should be receiving and playing are met, and that we are aligned with the expectations of our children?
The first thing we should do is to begin to manage our children's expectations of what they might receive -- from us and from Santa -- early. We have to talk about video games and what we like and don't like. We need to listen to our children's views and help them to understand why we hold ours.
It might also mean that we have to let children know what are reasonable requests for presents, even from Santa.
Avoid passively giving in to your child's demands. It's ok to make decisions on behalf of your child, even if it disappoints them. Children can cope with disappointment but it's is lessened if they already know that some things might not be possible this year. Parents need to have backbone. If you don't believe a particular game is good for your children then don't allow them to play it and certainly don't provide it for them.
Use the age rating on games to help you to decide on its suitability. In Ireland games use the PEGI (Pan European Game Information) system of rating. This rates games according to age and content.
The age rating does not describe the ability level required to play the game; it gives an indication of the development level required to make sense of the game and to lessen the likelihood of being negatively influenced by its themes.
PEGI also gives clear indications of the content of the game in separate rating symbols. These are very clearly described on the PEGI website (www.pegi.eu) and are a good starting point for your decision-making.
You can also preview or even play the game yourself before letting your child play. The game's rating may not match what you feel is appropriate for your child.
It can be helpful too to monitor how the games are affecting your child. If, for example, they seem more aggressive after spending time playing a certain game, discuss it with them and help them understand how the violence that's portrayed is different from the real world.
That can help them identify less with the aggressive characters and reduce the negative effects that violent video games can have. Setting limits on the amount of gaming time that children have is also helpful. Some parents, for example, use a comparative system. They determine that for every two hours of outside play (or non-computer play in the dark of winter) that their child has they can have an hour on the computer or games console.
Other parents simply set a daily or weekly limit that they believe to be healthy for their child. Remember that with an average weekly consumption of about 40 hours of media a week there is plenty of fat in the system that can be trimmed off!
Most families find that by reducing computer and TV time and replacing it with some other games that can be played together that they get along better. Of course this means that you might have to invest a bit more of your time in your children.
If you remain plagued by near-constant whining that "all of my friends have it and play it" or "nobody else has to turn off after an hour" then respond with "every family has different rules. These are the rules in our house". Then distract them or play some other game with them. If you stick with your decision consistently children will adapt quicker and the whining will stop.
Christmas is coming. Let it be a time for family togetherness and let video-gaming have a lesser role in your home.