Connect with your teenager through gaming

Gaming is a powerful and immersive medium that attracts children, young people and adults of all ages. Video games are interactive games played using a specialised electronic gaming device or a computer or mobile device and a television or other display screen. While the media often present the negative side of gaming, new research has shown that there can actually be a whole host of benefits related to playing video games.

One of these benefits has been dubbed ‘intergenerational gameplay’, and it’s transforming the gaming landscape. Intergenerational gameplay simply means children, young people and adults playing games together – whether online or in real life.

Put the ‘play’ back into your family by turning gaming time into family time

When children are young, parents allocate time to play with them in order to ensure that they connect, learn and meet developmental milestones. However, as they grow up into the teenage years, these opportunities for play diminish. Gaming is an excellent way for you and your child to reconnect through play and to spend time together in a fun and stress-free environment. Instead of fighting a battle to get your child away from gaming, concentrate your efforts on encouraging them to game with you.

A few good starting points could be:

  • If they’re already playing a game by themselves, ask if they can show you how to play and suggest that you could play together, or against one another.

  • Suggest buying or downloading a new game together. A good resource to help you choose an age-appropriate game is the Common Sense Media website. You can choose a game where you’re playing cooperatively together or playing competitively against each other.

  • Try one of the many gaming apps that can keep you connected throughout the day even when you’re apart. Many of these games have chat functions in-built that can provide an avenue of communication and connection. However, you might want to set some boundaries around school time and other commitments.

Gaming in Australia

Here we take a look at the gaming landscape in Australia and the benefits that can be enjoyed by gamers. Plus, we explore the different ways families can connect through gaming to build communication and rapport, and ultimately improve your connection and relationship with your child. A recent report conducted by Bond University has found that:

  • 98 per cent of Australian households with children have video games.

  • 84 per cent of 15–24-year-olds and 91 per cent of 5–14-year-olds play video games.

  • Three times per day is the typical daily game play frequency.

These statistics give a sense of the popularity of gaming within family life in Australia. If your child is really into gaming, you’re not alone.

Gaming for everyone

When using the word ‘gamer’, it’s easy to conjure up an image of a young person in a darkened room with their hands gripped tightly around a console. However, gamers can be anyone. In fact, the fastest growing gaming demographic in Australia is people over the age of 50.

From older people playing word puzzle games on their phones, to toddlers on iPads, gaming has something for everyone. It’s interesting to note that the reasons for getting into gaming are different for different age groups. Bond University’s study found that younger people play games to relieve boredom and to have fun, whereas older gamers play to keep their minds active.

Good news about gaming

While there is often negative press about gaming, it’s good to know that there are a whole host of positive effects that gaming can offer. In 2013, the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre in Australia conducted a comprehensive study titled ‘Videogames and Wellbeing’ that reviewed over 200 research studies from around the world. The study concluded that there are strong links between gaming and good mental health in young people. According to the research, moderate gameplay (approximately 9 hours per week) can lead to benefits such as:

  • positive emotions and emotional stability

  • relaxation and stress reduction

  • higher self-esteem.

The study compared gamers and non-gamers and found that moderate gamers exhibited lower depressed moods compared to those who ‘never’ play videogames and those who play video games to ‘excess’.

What are the benefits of intergenerational gaming?

Research conducted through Play2Connect, a partnership between several major universities in the United States, has linked intergenerational game play with family bonding, learning and wellbeing. From choosing a game to play together, to challenging each other within the gaming environment, gaming with young people is a great way to build and grow communication channels within the family unit. When you choose to play together, it develops:

  • a dedicated time to spend together in a fun and playful way

  • a reversal of the usual parent/young person dynamic – the young person often teaches the older person how to play

  • a shared interest that can provide a medium through which to communicate and connect.

Sometimes, however, gaming can become a problem in family life. If you notice things like your child becoming obsessive about gaming (gaming for too long or too often), or choosing to game instead of socialising with friends, or if gaming is affecting their sleep, it may be a good time to have a chat and make some rules. Many of these downsides to gaming can be short-circuited by choosing to participate in gaming together as a family unit. When gaming is a shared experience, these issues can be closely monitored.

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