According to the Office for National Statistics, 96 per cent of children aged 10 to 15 years in the UK now have computer access at home and 89 per cent of children have at least one games console.
This is despite the fact that research has proved some video games can have a negative impact on children’s behaviour, such as increased aggression, and that screens are increasingly turning into electronic babysitters, with young people in the UK spending more time plugged in than ever.
So what can parents do if their child is continually asking them for the latest game, or most of their free time is spent playing computer games?
Katharine Hill, from national charity Care for the Family says: ‘Parents have a key role to play in managing children’s access to computer and video games and this is an area where, as parents, we have to do our homework, get up to speed – and get involved!’
‘Even with older teens it is well worth finding out what they are playing and trying to help them create a safe environment.
With younger children especially, it’s important to get involved at the very beginning and set boundaries.’
Care for the Family provides advice for parents. Firstly, they suggest watching your kids while they play. Watch out for signs of frustration, aggression and rudeness.
If a game gets too much, encourage them to take time out.
Use the guidance you’re given. All games sold in the UK include age ratings and most also have indicators of content on the cover.
In addition, there are several magazines and websites which review games.
Insist that you vet any games before they are bought – and try to make sure you see any games they borrow from friends before they start playing them.
Talk to the parents of your child’s friends to see if you can agree a consistent approach.
Set time limits on playing games. Agree time limits in advance according to the age of your child.
The longer children play, the lower their concentration span is so a positive way to set time limits is to explain that to your kids.
If they are stuck on a level, it might be worth them taking ‘time out’ to return to their challenge with a fresh mind.
When they get back to the game after a break, they’ll be surprised how quickly they can overcome the obstacles.
Play the games with your kids. Make it an activity you can do together.
If you’re feeling exasperated about the amount of time your kids are spending playing games, remember that the computer games industry is big business.
Encourage your kids to get into the techie programming side of things.
Who knows – your kids may be the next big thing in computer games!
For further information visitcareforthefamily.org.uk or call (029) 2081 0800.