I recently saw a post where a mom asked how she could help her child find his passion in life. She wanted him to find something he loves doing. She wondered what she needed to do to help this process. While lots of parents gave her advice about things to do and how to try lots of things with her child. I told her what she most needed to do, is let go of her own ideas about what is a good or bad thing for her child to love.
I don’t know this child, this is an internet stranger, but I bet he already has things he loves. Legos, Minecraft, cartoons, and slime rate high with a lot of kids. But parents think none of those “count.” Parents think their child needs to love something the parent understands and sees value in. The problem is, if your child loves it already, they already found its value. As the parent, you need to catch up.
Screens are not bad
I think the constant messaging that too much screen time is bad for kids has led parents to believe that their child’s passion shouldn’t be taking place on a computer, iPad, or other devices. But the truth is, screen time on its own isn’t evil. Just like with most things in life, balance is the important part.
Kids need to do a variety of activities every day to be healthy. They need physical play, quiet time, and some time when they are problem-solving and thinking critically. In a lot of cases, video games can fill the need for problem-solving time.
Lots of us spend our workdays using a computer. And there are probably going to be more jobs using computers than not in our children’s lifetimes.
Finding the Right Game
One game that seems to have stood the test of time with kids is Minecraft. This game confuses me but I know kids as young as 5 and as old as 18 who play it. The skills your child is learning while playing Minecraft alone include math, coding, logic, reasoning, planning, and manipulating objects in a 3-D computer space. If they play with friends, they are also working on social skills and teamwork. And those are just what I can name for one, single game.
The wide variety of games and online adventures your child can explore is amazingly extensive. Research indicates that it is best to not let children under 7 play violent games with adult themes, as it can lead to behavior issues and psychological issues. This is because children 7 and younger may have trouble separating fantasy from reality. Their brains just are not good at separating fact from fiction. This is why kids this young can believe in the Tooth Fairy and Santa, and generally stop believing around age 8.
Brain development is still taking place, which can mean that if children become desensitized to violence at this age, it may last the rest of their lives. So, if your child is younger, do check to see what they are playing and that it is age-appropriate. There are both rating systems and reviews online you can read to help you decide if a game is okay for your child.
The Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) has a search feature so you can quickly find the rating for most any game available for major platforms. And this article from PC Mag explains the ratings and has some good tips for talking to your kids about online safety and picking the right game for them.
Once your child is older, studies also indicate that playing fantasy-style violent games doesn’t make teenagers more likely to be violent or commit crimes. The teenage brain might not be fully formed, but it can separate the fantasy of gameplay from reality. This doesn’t mean every game is appropriate, but it does mean you can relax some about fantasy violence.
More Than Just A Hobby
So, what can happen if your child has a passion for gaming? There are actually tons of jobs that gaming can lead to. Being a professional gamer is a real career that makes big money, but it is about as rare as becoming a professional athlete.
However, there are lots of other jobs in the industry. Programing, story design, animation, and software development are all options. Making video games can be very similar to making an animated movie, nowadays. There are teams of people working a wide variety of jobs, some creative, some technical. There are now colleges offering degrees in the relevant disciplines, with more new options developing constantly.
What if your child isn’t going to work in the gaming industry? There are still many skills they can build from their online time. There are games that incorporate history, geography, map reading, problem-solving, and more that build your child’s knowledge base.
My favorite thing my kid gets from gaming is the friends he interacts with while he games. As a homeschooler, he can’t see his friends in person every day, but he can game with them. The pandemic took away a lot of in-person activities, but online gaming is going stronger than ever.
So, set aside your ideas that gaming isn’t a valid thing for your child to love. It is not only valid but a great choice!
About the Author
Laura Sowdon, OTR/L is an occupational therapist, writer, speaker, educator and creator of the Five Senses Literature Lessons homeschool curriculum. She has worked as an occupational therapist with children in public and private schools, as well as private practice. Laura has taught and managed homeschool co-ops as well as homeschooling her own three children. Laura is dedicated to the idea of educating children at a pace that aligns with brain and physical development milestones and respects neurodiversity in all its forms.