Don’t Turn Video Game Playing into a Contentious Thing
One of the most common sentiments I hear from my students’ parents has to do with kids more interested in playing video games than practicing baseball. Parents have a right to be concerned about this modern day phenomena. This illustration from my book, Raising an Athlete: How to Install Confidence, Build Skills and Inspire a Love of Sport, is a funny look at the situation. It shows players, who come to practice with normal size bodies, but with enormous thumbs, as that is the body part in the best condition and with the most strength, from years of video game use. At least, I thought it was funny.
Unfortunately, by the time kids have gotten to the age when parents have the most concern over kids preferring to play video sports to the real thing, the situation is often irreversible. Before kids begin organized sports play, usually around age 7 or 8, is the time parents must make moves that prevent the video games, computer or TV becoming more fun than the real thing.
Keys to Making Real Sports More Appealing than Video Game Playing
* Parents, who understand the appeal of video games and incorporate those into playing the real thing, have a good chance of creating good priorities in kids, with balance. Video games present things kids enjoy – challenge, success, visual excitement, advancement, and all without nagging coach and adults, should try to add those into playing sports.
* Find time – Play sport with kids when they want – kids want action and when parents are too busy or unwilling to play with them, it usually means they will move to the next action packed activity – TV or Video games.
* Find ways to make the time playing the sport fun – Offering little suggestions, as to how to play are fine, but turning the sessions into a do this/ do that time is often the start of making it less fun. Parents should check with experienced coaches, books, and online for ways to make the playing time fun and exciting.
* Showing kids how to play the games in a fun way with just a couple of players is important – Often, if it isn’t an organized team setting, youth of today do not know ways to play with just a couple of kids, so it is important to give them ways to practice with fun in a small, unorganized way.
* Avoid using the word “practice” and use the word play – The word practice to kids has negative connotations, as in hard work and diligence, whereas the word play suggests fun, much more appealing to kids.
* Encourage calling over a friend – Alone time with one’s son and daughter, when playing some ball is necessary, but at other times it is good to have a friend of your child, who likes the same sport, come over to play with parent and child. Having a friend over usually leads to less heavy instruction from parents and leads to kids playing with friends, this is a good thing. The more friends are around, the greater the chance kids will get outside and play.
* Nudge, but don’t push – helping kids understand the connection between the more they play a sport, the better their chance at success, as with video game play, is a good thing.
Of course, allowing kids to play video games and watch TV whenever they want, often leads to kids preferring to play video sports more than the real thing, too, so parents should establish rules for video game play.
Rules for Video Game and TV usage
• Have time limits for video game use and TV time, and only after homework is finished
• Keep TVs and computers out of kids ‘bedrooms, where their use is much harder to monitor.
• Plan family activities, indoors and outdoors, that do not include watching TV or being online
• Be a good role model for kids with an active life style – telling kids not to play video games all the time, while parents spend their day in front of the TV or computer is not a good thing.
* Occasionally play video games with your child, so that it does not become a contentious thing between parents and kids. The more kids think of it as a bad thing, the more they may play to antagonize their parents. Additionally, taking video games away as a form of punishment or for poor sports play usually creates tension that is avoidable.
Once again, parents, who wait to limit video game playing at a later child age, are at a disadvantage with keeping real sport playing more vital to kids than video game playing.