A Window into your Child’s World

What if I told you that there was a magical place that you could go to that gave you instant access to how your child thinks and what they value as a person? Interested? What if this place also gave you a tool to unlock new languages and guaranteed a stronger bond with your child? The downside is that it does have a cost and it will require time.

Every child loves to play games. You can get them to do most anything if there is fun element or a competition that earns rewards. From the three-year-old ‘racing you’ to put away the most toys in the basket, to the nine-year-old ‘owning’ the dance floor in ‘Just Dance’; many parents miss that they can use digital games as a key into their child’s world.

You cannot access your child’s gaming from the outside in. To bond and build relationship you need to, at least occasionally, enter their games and play alongside. Most children in my experience are delighted to teach you how to do something in a game and explain why it’s best to do it that way. In the process of playing, you will also learn who your child communicates with in the game and how they interact with their friends on line. Teachable moments will occur with repeated gaming alongside. Conversations based on game play will naturally start to happen in car rides to school or sport. You may even find that your normally closed mouth child is quite chatty, when you ask them about a character in the game.

I can hear the groaning from the parent whose child is currently obsessed with Minecraft (insert any game name); it may help that you actually understand a little of what they are rattling on about. You may be able to appreciate their skill or creativity within the game.

There are other benefits from game playing, when your child is working in a team. In Minecraft Club for Year 4-6, we focus on creative teamwork and collaborative building. It gives students a safe zone where they can play, without getting hassled from the outside world. Many parents have told me that this gives their child a place to belong. For those who are a little socially awkward, it is a space where they are accepted and their skills are appreciated.

Please hear me when I say that you still need to be the parent and set appropriate boundaries of time and content as suited to your child’s age, interests and maturity. You may need to educate yourself with the latest games and social media apps, (our friends at Family Zone have a whole panel of experts that do regular updates on the pros and cons of games/apps.) Please don’t assume that because “all the kids are playing it…” or that the game app is free; that the game or app is safe for your child.

Some Do’s;

· Do set limit on screen time and access to age appropriate games.

· Do set aside regular time to play alongside your child.

· Do keep open conversation about who they communicate with online and how they communicate.

· Do educate yourself about which games and apps are suitable.

· Do model a good example of what good Digital Device usage looks like.

· Do be prepared to learn new things.

A relatively small investment in time and attention will pay big dividends in building a stronger, positive relationship with your child. It may not be the way that your parents interacted with you, and you may be surprised by some of the things that you discover about your kid. I encourage you to try digital gaming with your child.

Philippa Hunt, Primary School Digital Technology Teacher

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