Technology is changing every day, and the advances affect the way our children engage with it to have fun. With any types of technology, especially those applications that we as adults are not familiar with, there can be concern about how children are using it. It’s important for parents to stay educated and aware of the world of gaming. There are a number of ways gaming can be used as an educational resource to improve basic fundamentals, while also giving children a fun outlet to use during their leisure time.

“Gaming is constantly evolving and so is the stereotype of who is attracted,” says Jay Allsopp, CEO of iNet Ventures. “Interestingly, the world of gaming is far more varied than ever before. Whilst there are many reasons for this, it generally comes down to the new choices that have opened due to technology advancements. After all, gone are the days when pixel gaming was considered cutting edge. The smartphone and tablet market has certainly played a key role when it comes to ‘casual gaming’—especially attractive for children. For children, they could easily be attracted towards violent games, so I believe it is very important for parents to look at the age rating before purchasing a game for their child. Just like a movie, video games go through rigorous testing and an age rating is applied. For example, the US provides the ESRB system, whereas the UK uses PEGI. Both are easy to use for parents.”

Video games can help a child’s brain development. Look out for games that will appeal to your child’s interest and also provide ways your child can search, negotiate, plan and problem-solve. A big misconception within gaming is that the video games must be labeled as educational in order to teach children; however, that is clearly not the case. There are plenty of video games that help players make decisions, utilize strategies, anticipate consequences, and express their own individual personality.

Since there are so many different games to choose from, it can be difficult for parents to know what games are up-and-coming for school-aged children. Allsopp advises parents to be knowledgeable about the gaming platform or system that is being used. “For example, those who own a PS4 will find a variety of child-friendly games including: Knack, LittleBigPlanet 3, and Rayman Legends. Generally speaking, the genre is responsible for what to expect when considering content. Sport and adventure are usually ideal for children, but avoiding horror and action is often advised,” says Allsopp. “Nintendo is regarded as the console responsible for attracting a younger audience, they also have an upcoming console launch, named the Switch. Web-based games are especially popular, easily accessible, and don’t cost anything. A reliable online portal such as Poki offer a variety of child-friendly games such as .IO games, all of which can be accessed from a web-browser.”

As with any leisure activity, parents must monitor the time spent gaming and make sure that their child is engaging in other activities as well. Parents should reinforce gaming rules within their household and stick to those rules. Allsopp recommends setting a time-limit to ensure that children get a good night’s sleep. Encourage outside activities that the entire family can take part in—this will help set a balance within the household and provide other options for entertainment.

It’s imperative for parents to stay up-to-date on technology advances because their awareness and willingness to learn will provide their child with the tools to be ahead of the curve. “It is easy to label gaming under a negative spotlight, but this is often ignoring all of the advantages. In fact, learning can be very dull, yet games have the ability to engage on a scale not possible within a typical teaching environment. For an older child, games such as Sim City and Cities: Skylines offer the opportunity to run, develop, build and operate a city from the ground up—allowing the player to understand many of the underlying issues faced when running an economy,” says Allsopp. Parents and educators must think out of the box so that they can utilize the tools readily available to help their student prosper.

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