Video games are not just for children anymore. With so many options from streaming online to non-internet-connected consoles, families can enjoy gaming together as part of the bonding experience. But immersing yourself in a digital world is not all fun and games. Here are a few of the more practical matters to handle before you put your hands on the controller.
The first and most important issue is online safety. There are few things stopping predators from reaching out to vulnerable children if they’re allowed to play online unsupervised. No matter what type of games your children play, talk to them about interacting with strangers online. Make sure they understand that they should never accept a friend or connection request from anyone they don’t know in real life. Depending on what type of gaming console you have, you can restrict voice and other types of communication across the board.
Unscrupulous adult gamers are not the only issue with relaxed internet rules. The vast majority of parents are now concerned about excessive screen usage since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Spending too much time in front of screens means that your children are less active. Further, too much screen time can have a negative effect on a child’s emotional well-being. To help offset this, set screen time limits and make it a point to unplug so that you can interact with your children—offline—each day.
Once you set boundaries, you can get to the fun part of picking games and gaming consoles that will help your family come together in both the real world and the digital one. There are many family-friendly games available. GameDesigning, a leading resource supporting aspiring digital designers, suggests any of the Lego games, Minecraft, and Mario Kart 8. If you want to use your children’s game time as an educational experience, Adventure Academy, Carmen San Diego, and FunBrain are all great options that may help strengthen the lessons they are learning at school—and some app-based games are great for little ones getting ready for kindergarten. Most of these games allow for single-console play, but others, including Minecraft, allow you to create a server and play together from separate devices.
Even if you are not playing together in the same room, you can still have fun doing things together online. The caveat here is that you’ll need to ensure your internet speed can handle streaming videos and games from different parts of the house. A 5G connection is a great option if you live out in the country and want to reduce buffering and lag time. A strong internet connection will also help you download games quickly so that you can change things up when you are ready.
Game System Options
How do you choose the right gaming system for your family? Often, it comes down to budget. Commercial gaming systems, such as the PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox, don’t come cheap. Review Geek explains that the Xbox One S is about the most affordable, and you can get a full set up for around $500. The Xbox One X will set you back at least $200 more for a similar setup. A Nintendo Switch Lite, which is usable by only one person and only as a portable gaming device, can be had for around $200, but you also have to purchase games and, to get the best experience, pay for a Nintendo subscription. If you’d rather give your children a gaming experience like what you had as a child, you can purchase a Super Nintendo Entertainment System replica for about $80, no internet required.
The decision to play games together as a family—or to allow your children to play unsupervised—has no one-size-fits-all answer. But if you decide to let your inner gamer shine through, make sure to keep your kids safe. Never allow online chats, and keep fighting to a minimum by investing in an internet service that can keep up with your streaming needs.
Dealing with school closures, childcare issues, or other challenges related to coronavirus? Find support, advice, activities to keep kids entertained, learning opportunities and more in our Coronavirus Parents: Parenting in a Pandemic Facebook Group.
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