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I Encourage My 5-Year-Old Son To Play Video Games And The Science Backs Me Up

The following was syndicated from Medium for The Fatherly Forum, a community of parents and influencers with insights about work, family, and life. If you’d like to join the Forum, drop us a line at [email protected].

It’s tough being a parent. There’s a lot of things out there that you have to protect your child from: Strangers, putting poison in their mouth, crossing the street, playing outside alone, having them resent you, video games. Wait … video games? There’s a certain type of moderation that is necessary in restricting your child from video games, like violent ones or anything you wouldn’t maybe want to play in front of your own parents, but are video games really that bad for your child?

My kid loves video games, and he has for a good year or so. He likes watching me play FIFA, Rocket League, and even sat and watched me play Overwatch (though that had stopped once he start imitating certain characters in public). But he also loves to play video games. He’s gotten into the old Duck Tales game from Capcom. He has played Minecraft before and loves just walking around and building things. He just got a new Lego Dimensions game that encourages creativity and real-life LEGO building to go along with the video game aspect. All of these things bring a smile to his face, a laugh and pep to his tone, and overall a better understanding of how things work.

Do I sit and let him game all day? No. Does he ask to sit and game all day? Sure. He’s 5. He loves Tootsie Rolls and getting out of school early on special occasions. Does he also ask to do those things a lot too? Yep. Do I say no and he gets a little angry at this denial? Of course he does. But he gets over it, because he ultimately trusts me that I have his best interests at the forefront. Kids that age are going to beg for everything that makes them happy and get mad when they don’t get everything that they want. That’s part of being a parent.

Sorry, I’m on a tangent. Video games have been scientifically proven to be beneficial to children young and old. There’s a lot of articles on the net that use fear to try to help you parent their child. “Video games will alienate your children from friends and family.” “Games will increase the obesity rate of children.” “Games will make your child violent and unhinged, easily depressed.” But no sources, little to no strong scientific fact.

Some think it’s easier to threaten a child with future “doom and gloom” if they do too much of something. It’s always been around, even when we were kid: “If you eat raw cookie dough your stomach will eat itself,” “If you keep making that face it’ll stay that way forever,” or the classic “If you swallow your gum it’ll stay in your belly for 7 years.” But is that really an effective way to parent? Sure it’ll get your kids to stop doing something, but it also puts a level of fear in their joy that you might never be able to get back.

At the end of the day, all we want as parents is to have our children be happy and healthy and well-developed. In a study from 2009 from 2 psychologists at the University of South Florida, they stated: “If you look into the actual research literature, you find very little if any evidence supporting the fear-mongers claims, and considerable evidence against those claims. In fact, systematic surveys have shown that regular video-game players are, if anything, more physically fit, less likely to be obese, more likely to also enjoy outdoor play, more socially engaged, more socially well-adjusted, and more civic minded than are their non-gaming peers.”

Before scaring your kid into not doing something, just be a parent. Tell them that you don’t want them to play because they played yesterday or let them know it’s time to turn it off and do something else as you feel they’ve played too much. Have them go outside or play with their toys in their room that sit around collecting dust. Play a board game with them. But also let them game a bit, as everyone will be happier in the long run. I don’t need to tell you how to parent as you can trust your instincts just like everyone else.

Andy Baumgartener is a father, friend, @Colts Man United, 2006 Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, and Co-Founder & Host @prpodcastshow.

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