Gamers Parenting Tips

Games can be addictive - But obsession is something else.

The following article is meant for parents of a teen who might be obsessed with video and/or computer games. While in some of our other articles we may sound as though we encourage obsession, we share a concern over teens who tend to shun other interests in life in favor for gaming activities to the point where they withdraw from society. We would never encourage this kind of behavior, and that's why we've taken time to describe some of the signs of game obsession and offer some advice on how to deal with it.

Recognizing the signs of teen game obsession isn't as easy as one thinks. It always starts off as first, an interest, and it then starts to grow into an addition. The problem with identifying the beginning stages of game obsession begins with the teen. By the time our children are 15 and up, they've learned some rather impressive debating skills. So when we question their motivations for repetitive game play, they may rebut our concerns with logic and even make it a point to question our own flaws as parents.

Since no parent ever really wants to admit a flaw, we can sometimes cave in and convince ourselves that maybe 4 hours in front of a video game isn't that bad. After all, we spend that much time at the computer, on the phone, or transmitting data back and forth between our Palms, Blackberries, and Cingular cell phones.

Be careful not to fall prey to the logical teen. Video games can be addictive and if the time spent playing them is not carefully monitored, they'll consume everything that a teen used to care about.

The moment you notice your teen's grades falling, homework missing, or social life starting to drop off, nip that game time in the bud. If you wait too late to restrict game time, you may experience pre-adult temper tantrums that you aren't prepared to handle correctly (cursing, breaking things, stealing, running away from home, etc.). At this point, the child is obsessed and will do anything to get his or her hands on a game controller.

Another sign of obsession is a behavioral change. A child obsessed with gaming will lose patience with things and with others, be quick to anger, and react to situations without fully thinking of the consequences. If you've paid any attention to video and/or computer games, you'll notice that they require this kind of behavior to win or to advance to a higher level.

It's unfortunate, but a teen obsessed with this kind of violent gaming is literally being trained to react in the manner described above. That's why it's pertinent that as an adult, you restrict access to this kind of entertainment and replace it with activities that slow thinking (such as art, music, theater, etc.) and expose your child to other non-violent pleasures (swimming, dance, skating, etc.).

There are a lot of debates circulating around about the impact that video games have on today's youth and some of it might warrant paying closer attention to. As a mother or father of a teen, you will do well with your teen's desire to "get his game on" by keeping a close eye out for undesirable changes.

There's Lessons in Them Thar Games!

Who would have ever thought that video games  - a form of entertainment - could improve the minds of those that play them! The truth is that amid all the cool graphics, the fantastic music, and the intriguing plots, educational opportunities are abound - and to find them, one only needs to look at them a little closer.

1. Video games improve strategic thinking. Rare is the video game that doesn't require its player to make a decision two or three steps ahead of a current situation. With constant play, players quickly learn the advantage of strategic thinking and they start to apply it to actual world opportunities.

2. Video games improve problem solving. Although the same could be said about any game, video games have proven in study after study to improve problem-solving skills. This is because most (if not all) games are centered around a problem and then challenge the player to solve it. In just one game, a player may solve anywhere from three to a hundred or more different problems.

3. Video games improve hand and eye coordination. If you find this hard to believe, pick up a game controller and try to maneuver around the game. Manipulating a game controller demands the same skills that it takes to maneuver a mouse around a computer screen.

4. Video games facilitate quick decision-making. One quality of video games that lends to quick decision making is its impromptu situations. The element of surprise is always around the corner and it's what makes games exciting to play. To win however, players must be able to make smart decisions within a very short amount of time.

5. Video games feed the imagination. We don't really understand the argument against things like television, videos, and gaming where people use the lack of imagination to support their part of the debate. Some people claim that video games take away from the imagination because games supply the mind with things instead of encouraging the mind to come up with these things on their own. Bear in mind that these are the same people who say a stack of blocks is sufficient to grow a child's imagination. Of course we couldn't disagree more. The imagery in video games only fuels the imagination and gives it a spring board to form new possibilities that might not have occurred otherwise.

6. Video games encourage exploration. In role-playing games, players must venture off the beaten path and explore the unknown. They have to open doors without knowing what's behind them. They have to enter areas of the game without knowing the consequence. And they have to interact with characters that they've never met before. Inside these particular kinds of games, the opportunity to gather up the courage to explorer unknown territory isn't just available, it's required.

7. Video games enforce memorization. Another feature of video games is its strong influence on memorization. The terrain portrayed inside some of these games is huge, yet accessing the maps can be cumbersome and disruptive to the game. To compensate, gamers will not only memorize a large portion of the terrain, they'll remember the tasks required to get to specific areas.

8. Video games teach consequence. All computer and video games operate off of an "action - reaction" principle. Do something, and the game will react. This is a great opportunity to learn about consequence - whether this opportunity is experienced from a gamer's point of view or a programmer's point of view.

9. Video games teach patience, dedication, and endurance. No great game can be conquered in a day. In fact, some of the best and most popular games take weeks or months to finish.

These are just some of the educational opportunities hidden inside video and computer games. After closer investigation, we're sure you can find more in addition to hours of fun and amazement.

A Quick How To

Visit any video game outlet and you're bound to get overwhelmed by the hundreds of choices available - especially if you're new to gaming. Interestingly, children and teens seem to know their way around these places as if they were their second home. But for the adult, the typical video store looks like some sort of color paint explosion and sooner or later, all the games start to look the same. This guide is for the adult who's buying a game for a younger person perhaps as a birthday gift or as a bribe. Whatever the reason, you're going to appreciate the following tips.

1. Research this strange phenomenon before setting foot inside a video store. There's plenty of information available about video games online, so to reduce frustration offline, fire up your web browser and do a little homework. Visit the website of the gaming outlet nearest you and then look for a link to the games section of the system that your youngster plays. Here's a helpful chart to explain what all those strange letters mean.

Wii = Nintendo's Wii System
EA Sports = Entertainment Arts System
PS3 = Playstation 3 System
XBOX 360 = Microsoft's XBOX 360 System
PC = Personal Computer
PS2 = Playstation 2 System
PSP = Playstation Portable System
DS = Nintendo's DS System

The key is to locate the system on the store's website first. The system, it's accessories, and all of the games that work on that system will follow. If not, you may need to use the website's internal search engine.

2. After locating the appropriate games section for your youngster's machine, check out the ratings of each game and create a temporary shopping list of age appropriate material. The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) gives each game a rating in an effort to inform parents what their children are playing. Here's a handy reference to what the ratings mean:

C = Appropriate for Early childhood
E = Appropriate for Everyone
E 10+ = Appropriate for Everyone aged 10 and older
T = Appropriate for Teens
M = Appropriate for Mature Adults

3. Within your temporary shopping list, try find a game that's built from the latest movie release. Little people love the new animated movies put out by Disney and Pixar, and they really enjoy re-living precious moments in the movie in a video game. That's why when these movies come out on DVD, their producers put a few games in the "Special Features section" of the CDs.

4. If you can't find a game that's built from a movie that the child likes, try to find a game that centers around a popular cartoon character or one that attempts to educate.

5. If you still can't find one that resembles something that you've heard this particular person rambling on about, first give yourself a slight slap on the hand. You should pay better attention. Then point your browser to the nearest Blockbuster or Hollywood Video website. Follow the same procedure outlined in steps 1 - 3 only this time, elect to rent 5 or 6 games that look appealing. This will give your tot a chance to play some games and select one to keep forever while you return the others.

6. If on the other hand, you did find a game in step 3 or 4, you can either check out online, or drive up to the store and buy it there.

They say you can't judge a book by its cover, but the illustrations on the both video and pc game cases do a pretty good job of representing the game's content. So if you see an illustration of fighting warriors, chances are the game will be more violent than you prefer. If on the other hand, you see an illustration that resembles what you'd see on the cover of an interesting children's book, the game should be age appropriate.

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