When my older children were very young, we didn’t have video game systems in the house. Honestly, I didn’t want my kids to grow up engrossed in video games, so focused on virtual worlds they weren’t much aware of what was going on in the real world around them. I’d seen video games turn grown men into zombies who lost track of all time and put aside all other priorities while gaming.
But a few years ago, my family received video game consoles as gifts. I toyed with the idea of just returning them to the store for credit, and continuing our game-free lives, but the other functions of the Xbox 360, including the ability to stream Netflix on our TV, won it a place in our home. Since we didn’t have cable, satellite or even a working local antenna, the game console became our entertainment hub.
Soon, we had a small stock of family friendly games, and we enjoyed playing together in our spare time. I realized that the things I feared about allowing video games in our home didn’t have become our reality. In fact, I found a few really good reasons to say yes to video games, at least in moderation.
Fun family interaction
Our family has always enjoyed playing games. Card games, board games, backyard games, it doesn’t matter. We just like spending time together having fun. It turned out, our favorite multiplayer video games were no different. We just made sure to include the same rule we used when playing any other type of game; bad sportsmanship means game time is over.
Some of our favorite games have included features that help build learning skills. The Dog Island, for instance, was one of my daughter’s favorite games when she was in early elementary school. It involves a lot of reading, which my husband or I had to help her with at first, but she was very eager to learn to read all the words herself so she could play on her own.
Today, one of my kids’ favorite games is Minecraft. There are all sorts of learning opportunities in Minecraft, from basic strategizing and understanding of geometric concepts needed to play the game, to the encouragement to further study topics like architectural design and geology.
Shared cultural experience
Speaking of Minecraft, it seems like almost everywhere we go we meet other kids and adults who love this game. It reminds me a lot of college, when almost everyone was playing Civilization or SimCity, and no matter where you went, you could find someone with a shared experience.
Video games can help kids relate to one another, giving them a common bond upon which to build a new friendship. And that’s pretty cool, in this ever shrinking world.
As I wrote in a previous article, it’s essential that parents set limits for kids when they are dealing with any activity that could be detrimental when done in excess, and that certainly includes video games. But one of the benefits to setting limits means you can also use video games as rewards, positively reinforcing good behavior in your kids, such as keeping their rooms clean, helping with other chores, finishing their schoolwork with a positive attitude, and more.
In essence, video games are much like any other desired form of recreation, and if enjoyed responsibly they can be one of many fun ways your family spends time together or individually. Just remember, as the parent, you are the one ultimately in control of the power button, and if the negatives begin to outweigh the positives, you can tame the video game monsters with one simple push.
More by Tavia:
How to Win the Battle Over Video Games
The Cutest Video Game Ever Turned Me into a Gamer
How to Find Diamonds on Minecraft for Xbox 360