Recently Your Teen Media posted on their Facebook page asking what parents are most worried about with gaming. A lot of parents answered that they are worried about their kids spending too much time online gaming and not enough time in real life. Yeah, that’s certainly important! It’s about on par with worrying about a kid who watches too much TV. But I think there are some nuances of gaming that parents aren’t seeing.
I was the kid who spent way too much of my free time gaming. Maybe not the games your kids are playing, as mine were often solo: Kingdom Hearts and the like, Skyrim, fantasy games about dragons or defeating The Darkness. I was definitely the kid who barely socialized. Even now, I don’t leave my house all that often, and I still spend an awful lot of my freetime gaming.
I love video games. I play a lot of video games. Some would say too much video gaming. And you know what? I’m fine.
I got a new game for my birthday. Almost exactly three weeks later, according to the stats on my computer, I finished it in exactly 90.2 hours. That means 30 hours a week. Maybe 4 hours a day. Some might argue that’s too much online.
But you know what else I did in that time?
I saw friends I hadn’t seen for a while. I held a board game night at my house. I went out for lunch. I worked my full-time job. I performed in a Purim Play for my Rabbi (I was Speaker #3; it wasn’t a huge investment).
Should parents worry about their teens’ gaming habits? Addiction certainly exists. Also, kids aren’t typically great at time management. But if your kid’s main hobby is playing video games, I wouldn’t worry so much about the time they’re playing games. It’s probably better to focus on teaching them about personal boundaries. Here’s why.
Talk to Your Kids About Chatroom Culture and Gacha Games
So, here’s the thing. I have A LOT of online friends — many more than I have in real life. And I met so many of them through gaming chatrooms, both on live Twitch streams and through Discord, not to mention social media accounts like Twitch and Tumblr.
I can tell you from experience, and my friends can tell you too, that online friendships can be just as real and fulfilling as offline friendships.
That being said, online safety is important and a lot of kids do not take that seriously enough.
The dark side of gaming chats.
Gaming chats can also be just an absolute cesspool of the worst of humanity. Slurs and hate speech, harassment, and bullying — these dangers are real, and they are awful. The culture around gaming can be toxic. And kids learn behaviors from older gamers. I’ve noticed that boys, particularly, scream slurs when they’re losing, and some of the things they say to girls (of any age) in an online space is disgusting. My fear is that these kids will go on to emulate that toxic online behavior in real life.
Parents, please please please pay attention to your kid if they’re playing competitive online games, ESPECIALLY if they’re playing online shooters. I’m sure this will be out of date by the time I’ve even written them down, but is your kid playing Call of Duty? Overwatch? Valorant? Fortnite? I urge you to listen in and pay attention to what everyone is saying to each other. You can use this as an opportunity to teach your kids what is and isn’t okay to say. It matters if they’re saying terrible things on screen. It’s not just words on a computer. There are real people on the receiving end of their words.
Beware of Gacha Games.
What is a gacha game you may ask? These are the games that run mostly on microtransactions. Do you remember Candy Crush? When you lose three lives, you have to wait an hour to try again, unless — Do you want to pay just a few extra bucks to get those lives back early? You have to make your decision now, before the timer runs out. Do you want to play more? You can play right now, all it will cost you is just a “little bit” of money.
Now imagine accidentally spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars on that. Lives can get ruined here.
Genshin Impact. Pokemon Masters. Revue Starlight Re LIVE. Heck, Fortnite too. These all have gacha games embedded in them. If your kid is playing a game that has a gambling aspect to it, please make sure they understand what’s really going on. They’re being asked to spend real money. Real money that you or they probably want to spend somewhere else. I know so many people who accidentally dropped hundreds of dollars on a gacha game. The temptation is real, and my friends will tell you it starts young.
Unlocking Joy: Ask Your Kids Why They Love Online Gaming
I made all sorts of friends in school. But I can tell you that in real life and online, I made (and continue to make) most of my best friends by playing video games. Currently, I have a huge group of online friends that I game with almost every weekend. As an awkward, nerdy girl who struggles with meeting new people, the friends I’ve made through gaming have been a wonderfully bright spot in my life.
Some of the most creative people I’ve ever met are playing video games and making gorgeous fanart and even writing fanfiction. Others pick up programming. Some learn how to edit videos, or even just become more comfortable with themselves by setting up a video camera and recording themselves having a good time. Maybe your kid can turn their love of gaming into a creative project, too!
Try asking your kids what they love about the games they’re playing, or what they’d change about the games if they could. Help them dig into those ideas by asking them to explain and show you. It’s exciting for a kid to discover they know more about something than you do!
Do I play video games a lot? Yes, I’m willing to admit that. I also watch a lot of anime and spend a lot of time on social media. Even so, I have a social life, a job, and a dog that gets fed (mostly) on time. I’m in my 20’s living a happy and fulfilled life.
Parents of gamers: I promise, there’s hope.