Parents: Here's your guide to dealing with kids and games [Interview]

Scott SteinbergVideo games have been around for 40 years now. They're nothing new, and almost everyone plays them. Heck, you have to at least touched a controller once in your life, took Pac-Man around the bend a few times. But that doesn't mean they're the same. For parents, the video games of today should be just as hot a topic as education or stranger danger.

That's where Scott Steinberg, technology expert and author of "The Modern Parent's Guide to Kids and Video Games," comes in. It's the first in a series of guides that Steinberg looks to bring together into the ultimate handbook for parents in the digital era, and it's available for free to download. Of course, he happens to have plenty of interesting observations on how parents should incorporate the wonderful world of video games into their kids' lives.

"Really what we advocate, when it comes to games, is be aware, be involved and take an active role in the hobby," Steinberg firmly says. "Not only does it help you have a better understanding of the games and the context in which they're being used, it also better equips you to resolve conflicts when they do arise. Best of all, by showing interest in a hobby that your child if passionate about, it creates a great opportunity to bond with them and bridge the gap between generations."

Today, it's simpler than ever to game with your children, given the proliferation of easy-to-use devices like tablets and motion gaming. (Not to mention getting into a game is only a "download" button away.) Forget the tired "violence in video games" debate for a moment: For parents looking to introduce their kids to gaming, it can be tough to decide what's appropriate.
The Modern Parents Guide series
Luckily, there's a simple measure by which first-time games should be evaluated, and even Facebook games (under heavy guidance, of course) can prove not only fun, but developmentally helpful. "Realistically, if you're talking about social network games, PopCap's suite of titles--Bejeweled, Zuma. Anything that's simple, colorful and engaging, but also requires them to take an active role and use their brain," Steinberg says. "I know that sounds somewhat trite, but really, if you're going to introduce a kid to gaming, don't introduce them to the equivalent of cotton candy for the brain. Even Words With Friends: powerful teaching tool."

While we're on online gaming, Steinberg thinks that parents need to realize that allowing their kids to play games online is quite the commitment. Parents need to do their homework, too. This rings true in a gaming landscape in which kids can download $5, $10 or even $100 worth of games or in-game content with the press of a button. (Or, in the case of this unfortunate parent, a whopping $1,400.)

The Modern Parents Guide to Kids and Video GamesOf course, online gaming will eventually lead kids into more suggestive or violent video games as they grow older. And "grow older" is a relative term: Children are being exposed to these games earlier than ever. While it's ultimately up to parents to decide what gaming content is appropriate for their kids, it's also up to them to make sure they know how said games are affecting them, regardless of whether the effects are proven.

"A lot of times, I think parents miss--they'll ask kids what they're playing and expect to get a detailed description and the kid wants to say, 'Well, this button does this.' Instead, the questions they need to be asking are like, 'How does it make you feel when you're playing? Do you realize that you're doing it in a game, but if you did that in real life, it would be wrong? How do you think it makes the other player feel,'" Steinberg tells us. "These types of questions give you a better idea of what's going on, but really you need a healthy, open environment. And you need to be able to talk to your kids, because I think it's inevitable ... they're going to get access to these games."

This isn't to say that whole process can't be enjoyable. And while there's no hard and fast rule that says, "Parents must play video games with their kids," both kids and parents stand to benefit quite a bit. "The reality is that you can't force it on anyone," Steinberg admits, "but certainly we encourage people to be open-minded about it, be willing to experiment and give it a try. Just go out there and have some fun. You may be surprised."

You can download Scott Steinberg's "The Modern Parent's Guide to Kids and Video Games" right here. The book is also available through iBooks, Kindle, Nook and for free in Sony's Reader Store.

Have you introduced your kids to gaming yet? What has your experiences with kids and gaming been like, regardless of age? Sound off in the comments. Add Comment.
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