Is playing video games good for your kids?

Fortnite, Overwatch, Minecraft, and Mario. If you're the mum of school-aged kids I'm pretty sure you'll have an idea about most of these video games. You'll argue with your kids about playing games, about how much time they spend on their consoles. But have you ever wondered if playing games is good for your kids? As the mum of a 10 year old and a 14 year old I know I have, and while I know there can be downsides I've done a little research into the good bits of playing games. 

Is Playing Video Games Good For Your Kids? | Xbox, Playstation, Switch - which do your kids play?
Which are your kids fans of? Xbox? Playstation? Switch?

How playing video games can be good for kids

Inspiring interest in varying topics. Now this might sound strange, especially when you think about games like Minecraft which is essentially just building blocks. But some of the ideas seen on games like Minecraft can inspire children to look into historical buildings for example. They may want to build a realistic (ish) looking castle and need to research what a real one looks like. There's also the surrounding area, and how trees and foliage might grow around a castle. My boys like playing video games like Fortnite and Overwatch, and while this hasn't prompted them to go look at castles online it has sparked a few conversations about the games industry and how they make things like shooting actually work within the game. With a Hubby who has worked in the industry for more than 20 years he can talk to them about the actual making of games, and I believe that teaches them about the possibilities when they're old enough for a job. I love that gaming can make kids think about things in a new way.

Is Playing Video Games Good For Your Kids? | Do your kids create real things on their video games?
Could your kids create Bolsover Castle in Minecraft? Why not challenge them?

Help make friends. My eldest has always had a little trouble making friends, his group of friends has been small since he started school and it's never really changed. He's not the most sociable boy I know, and sometimes I've wondered if this would hinder his achievements in the future. However, when he started playing games like Fortnite and Overwatch he suddenly started chatting to friends while playing. The video games opened up the world to him and he was able to chat to people without them being in the room, which meant he had to talk (something he's often struggled with being an introvert). By chatting to people over the headset while playing video games he made friends, but not just that - he made real friends too. All the chatting he did online helped with him making friends in real life too.

Improve problem-solving skills. Whether your kids are playing Fortnite and having to avoid getting shot, or they're playing Zelda and having to solve puzzles in order to find a new piece of equipment to help them on their quest, they're learning. By playing these video games they're improving their problem-solving skills. The games are filled with puzzles and this helps them think about problems in a new way. Kids have a great way of thinking about things sometimes, but by playing games they can also expand how they think - helping them long into the future. 

Is Playing Video Games Good For Your Kids? | Can your kids solve the puzzles quickly? If not why not get them to play more games.

Helps creativity. When you have a child who isn't that creative, who prefers facts and figures and doesn't spend a lot of time using their imagination, it can be difficult to get them to be creative. But when they play video games they get to see other people's creativity and it inspires them. They begin coming up with ideas about how the game might be better, they use what they can see to get new ideas. I had this recently with LP, who has a facts and figures kind of mind. He'd been given a task at school that required him to be creative - definitely not his comfort zone. Because he'd been playing games along the same lines as the topic at school and he'd also read a book about it too, he was able to complete the task - using his own imagination. A win I'd say.

Create with the heart; build with the mind.

Criss Jami

Understanding rules. No matter what you do in life there are rules to live or work by right? And your kids learn this at home - like when you say they have to sit at the table to eat dinner. When they play these video games they're also learning about different rules - like how you have to shoot other players to win the game in Fortnite, or how you have to solve puzzles in Zelda. But there are other things too - like how certain guns work, what you need to do in order to build forts, and how to play the game to avoid being banned by the creators. All games have rules, and a bonus here is that they're not your rules. Yes, you're the parent, but in this case the rules your kids are following are not set by you - teaching them there will be rules to follow throughout their lives.

Competition. Competing can sometimes lead to problems. It can bring out the worst in people, and can make the whole experience horrid. But, by playing these video games your kids are getting to be  competitive without having to compete - if you get my drift. If your kids aren't very sporty, like BP, and they don't compete in football games or attend any after-school classes then letting them compete with friends by playing these video games can be a good thing. It shows them that you don't need to be sporty to compete, and actually they can excel at something despite not being sporty.

Is Playing Video Games Good For Your Kids? | Competing, even when they're not sporty!

Gives them a chance to lead. If you're the mum of a follower, someone who is easily led or who is just too quiet to lead, then you'll know what I mean here. When you're child is quiet they often don't speak up, other kids don't listen to them because they never speak - which can make them feel like they're not respected. By playing video games, and getting friends involved, your quiet child may get the chance to be a leader after all. They may be quiet at school - for whatever reason - but when it comes to those games they could be the expert all their friends go to for advice. When kids play video games together they often take it in turns to lead, depending on each child's strengths. Which means your once quiet, easily led, child will become the respected expert all the kids in school go to for game advice.

Encourages exercise. Okay, so this doesn't really apply to games like Fortnite - although LP is often giving the dances a go! But when it comes to the sports games, basketball or football, these games can teach kids about skills and get them outdoors practising. They take the balls outside and try to replicate what they've seen in the games, and when they can't do it they repeat the task until they can!

Is Playing Video Games Good For Your Kids? | Your kids may want to copy what they've seen footballers do on their games.

A chance to bond. If you have ever played games with your kids you'll know how much fun it can be. But bonding with them goes beyond playing the video games - it's about the connection you make. By playing their favourite game (the Hubby plays Fortnite with LP) it shows your kids that you're not only interested in the things they do for fun, but it gives them someone - other than their friends - to talk to about it. You get to laugh with them about new updates. You get to pretend to play for real (running around the house pretending to shoot). But best of all it makes them more likely to talk to you about other things they care about - because you've already shown an interest. 

Of course there are always going to be the people who say playing video games is bad for your kids. And yes, there are the bad things too - like this...

Playing video games can be a bad thing...

Ignoring chores. You have no idea how many times I've had to yell about chores getting done. It's almost like they think the games should come first and everything else can wait. There are times when I let this slide, but it doesn't take me long to realise I've done the wrong thing because the chores get ignored day after day and then it's a huge job to get things sorted.

Is Playing Video Games Good For Your Kids? | Leaving mess in their rooms while they play games is not on!
This is what I found in my youngest's bedroom  - NOT ON!

Bragging. "I'm so good at this!" I hear it so many times when my boys are playing games and it drives me mad. They're not experts at the game - not by far - but they just can't help bragging about something when they believe they've done something good. But not just that, they then go to school and brag about it too. We had an incident a while back where LP got into a fight at school because someone was trying to say they were better than him at Fortnite. Needless to say we had words.

Gaming comes first. Like I said above, everything else can wait when they're into a game. Dinner ready? It can wait until they're done with their game. Visitors? They have to wait. It's like they enter a world all of their own and everything else fades into a distant memory.

Bad behaviour. You might tell them to put the game off and they throw the game controller on the floor. Or they go storming through the house because they lost a game. Or even worse - and this has never happened to me - they might break something (like the TV!) because they're angry at the game. There are so many examples but really it's about how the game is making them feel - and if it gets to this point something is wrong. 

There are always going to be good and bad things about playing video games, and while there are bad I believe that playing video games really can be good for your kids - as long as you settle on some rules before you start.

Rules for play

  • Time limits. This is the single most important rule you could possibly have. If left alone, with no limits, I have no doubt my boys would play video games all day every day and all other things would suffer. We have daily time limits, including the times they can play (only after school) and for how long they can play. We increase their time at the weekend, but if we have things planned they have to give up their games.

Is Playing Video Games Good For Your Kids? | Give them time limits - and stick to it.

  • Don't give in. When you set your rules you have to stick by them. If you allow your kids 1 hour game time per day, don't let them have extra time when they start a new game 5 minutes before their time is up and then ask to finish their game. I've heard this so many times "oh, but I just started a game!". And my response? I tell them they know the rules, and they knew their time was about to finish so they shouldn't have started a new game. 

  • Rules for friends. My boys both have online friends on the Xbox, these are people they have never met. However, we have rules when it comes to these online friends. They are NEVER allowed to tell people their real name, where they live, or even how old they are. They're not allowed to share any personal information other than the country they're from. Right from the start I was insistent and LP has been very good about not sharing information - to the point that if someone asks him what his name is when he's online he will immediately leave that game. 

Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you; spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.

Amy Poehler

  • Chores, homework, revision, etc gets done first. Whether it's jobs around the house, or homework that needs to be done, it should all be done BEFORE they play games. I have had instances where the boys have pretended to do chores and then gone on to play their video games, but then they have to put the games off. As long as their chores, homework, and revision is done they can play games but if these things don't get done then they don't get to play. I've heard lots of complaints about it - but for me this is important and I won't back down.

  • Talk to them about the game. This is more a rule for you, and not your kids but make sure you talk to them about the game. If anything else, staying informed gives you at least some power. When you know what they're talking about you can deal with any situation that crops up. By learning terminology, how the game works, and even what v-bucks are, will make parenting kids who play video games a lot easier! 

Is Playing Video Games Good For Your Kids? | Mum of school-aged kids who love playing games?

Playing video games can be seen as such a bad thing, especially these days with social media saying it's so bad for kids to be playing video games. They talk about how they're violent and inappropriate - and yes, there are games that are inappropriate for young kids - but it's your job to make sure they're not playing those games. I refuse to let my boys play GTA V, not because of what social media says, but because I know the game isn't appropriate for kids - even 16 year old kids. If you'd like to read more about how video games can be good for your kids head over to where they have a post called 8 reasons video games improve your child.

As long as you have rules, and stick to them, playing video games really can be good for your kids.

Which video games, if any, do you let your kids play?

Why not give your kids a break from playing video games and grab the Fun with AniPals! activity book?
Is Playing Video Games Good For Your Kids? | Why not give them a break from the games by grabbing the Fun with AniPals activity book!