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6 Crucial Video Game Health Checks

20/09/2021

Author: Jo Robertson


There is a lot of talk about screen time and setting limits when I’m talking to other parents about gaming children. This is all well and good, but it doesn’t really help me understand how healthy my children’s gaming is. Digital detoxes sound good, but like fit camps when you come home how do you stay healthy?

This week we’ve been thinking about the health checks that help us measure and understand how positive our family’s gaming is. Here are five questions to help you gauge how things are really going.

1. Do you know what your children play?


Sometimes I only have a very vague sense of knowing what my children are up to in their gaming lives. This isn’t a good thing, as I know it’s all too easy for the standards to slip and them to move over to playing things that aren’t appropriate. It’s a bit of work to keep on top of it, a bit like keeping on top of what homework they should be doing (thankfully there’s an app to help with that).

It’s important to feel as though I am in the loop as a parent. What games are they playing? What are they like? Why do they enjoy it?

Research Their Games:

2. Do you know who they play with?


Online gaming is fun for children, they get to meet up with friends and enjoy the same game together. School friendships can be extended here, and the fun (and arguments) of the playground continue after school. When they are older they can also make new friends all over the world, build teams and work together in pre-planned missions and raids.

It’s important to know what the settings are on these games, and who they can talk to. Do they just play with friends or is it people they may not know? Have you talked to your child about who they play with? Do you know if they’ve made new friends?

Understanding Online Friends:

3. Do you play together?


We all agree it’s good to spend time with our children, right? So why not spend time doing something they enjoy. After all, they come with you when you drag them out for that walk on a Sunday morning. Playing together can be fun (no really!) A big brash multiplayer game that involves the whole family in the living room like Uncharted The Lost Legacy. On the couch enjoying something slower together like Hoa. Or even sitting with your child when they play on their own, asking them questions and seeing the world that they enjoy when they play alone or with their friends.

It’s important to spend time sharing this play. Do you helicopter in to check it's safe, or do you stay to share the fun for a while? Do you have games you are regularly working through with each of your children? Do you have games you play together as a family?

Find Games To Play Together:

4. How long do they play?


Any parent will be familiar with the pressures on family time, whether it’s games or phones, finding a good balance is hard and needs ongoing guidance. It’s easy for game time to escalate when it’s out of sight. This is something that’s not only frustrating to us parents, but children can also feel like they’ve wasted the weekend. We can help them stay healthy here by an ongoing presence and conversation.

It’s important to understand the pattern of play as well as duration. Are they playing long 40 hours games or just in short rounds (you can look this up on the database)? Do you understand why they might not appear immediately when you call them for dinner? Do they understand they need to check before starting a long round they can’t quit?

Research Game Length:

5. How healthy is their gaming diet?


Children by nature are faddy. I remember all the phases my children went through. Alien-goo eggs, fidget spinners, bottle flipping. It’s the same with games, they will get into the latest thing and play it endlessly because that’s what their friends are doing. But this approach to gaming is only going to give them a limited gaming diet. Like eating chips every day. We wouldn’t be happy with our children doing that. Along with all the other balances we strive for in family life, getting them outdoors, getting them reading a book, we should be encouraging them to find variety in their gaming.

It’s important that children try games outside their comfort zone. Do you know which genres of games they play? Are there some games they would like to try? Which sorts of genres have they not experienced (why not try some of these with them)?

Broaden Genres and Themes:

6. How appropriate are their game Age Ratings?


We are used to finding movies, books and music that are appropriate for our children. Or when they find their own media, it’s pretty easy to check if it’s suitable. Video games are harder to gauge without playing them for a while. The Content Age ratings (PEGI/ESRB) enable you to check how appropriate the content of their games are. On the database we also offer a Skill Age rating to help you find games that are the right level of challenge for them. These measures help you keep them safe, but also be ambitious about the games they are playing.

Do you know the oldest content (PEGI/ESRB) age rating they play? Do you know which age rating descriptors (violence, sex, language, drugs, gambling) their games have? Do you know how hard the games they play are?

Research Skill Ratings and Age Rating:


Image of the cover of the hardback edition of the Taming Gaming book  by Andy Robertson Image 311 Thank you for using our resource, supported by AskAboutGames, ParentZone and PlayAbility Initiative. We are editorially independent, written by parents for parents, but welcome sponsorship, partnership and suggestions. Email our editor for details on these opportunities.

The information on this database is designed to support and complement the in-depth discussion and advice about video game "addiction", violence, spending and online safety in the Taming Gaming book. If you have any concerns or questions in these areas, email our editor who is quick to respond or can arrange for a one-to-one conversation.

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