Video games and parenting: the unfocused problem

It’s almost impossible to be a parent and not know what a video game is. I’d argue the vast majority of parents take a stance on video games, as they do on television watching. Parents action the play of video games on the same continuum as television or computer use, drawing on their perceived success in regulating children’s television watching in thier early years to video games.

One immediate issue here is that we also know parents become more unfocused in terms of regulation as the child gets older – using media theory which has looked at television regulation for over thrity years. In the same period, there is little research into how they regulate video games – which I know many parents and teachers find amazing.

Taking a stance can be seen as a social act in which parents and children simultaneously evaluate objects, position subjects (themselves and others), and align with other subjects and phenomenon.

This makes every conversation between parents or parents and children about games difficult, the likelyhood of successfully evaluating a game and finding a mutual understanding (let alone agreement) is amost zero.

Focused media regulation happens, as I said, mostly in early childhood traditionally speaking. The regulation of television and play is something parents pay close attention to (in most, but not all) homes. They carefully select media, the time spent with it and are mostly influenced by government policy and advisories as well as a raft of family and parenting publications with ‘experts’ offering advice, though the ongoing media panic about games. By and large the adult focus audience has – since radio – focused on the material, not the interaction.

Unfocused regulation does not mean parents are not paying attention. It means that the discussions that go on between parent-child dyads, about the topic of games (culture, material content, hardware, software etc.) happens in situation that range from casual to heated exchanges about the broad topic of games – where parents have far less exepertise, vocabulary or experience to engage children in a focused conversation.

One of the reasons I *sigh* at teacher’s loving Minecraft (sorry Minecraft Teacher Version) is that is emphasises to the child, just how unfocused their teacher is when talking to them – and other teachers – about video games. It makes it impossible to talk about ‘game based learning’ because the stance teachers are taking (and reinforced by Microsoft’s army of social media amplifiers) failes to evaluate and position ‘games’ and ‘learning’ in other than the same paradigm that saw Web2.0 have absolutely no impact a decade ago.

When observing a group of children playing it (teachers love to film this) the stance between children is focused – because they are the same age, share the same boundaries, under the same rule – and frankly, playing Minecraft is probably preferable to something else – or worse, used as a reward or even nmore disgusting – to allow the teacher to appear to be ‘cool’ in front of their online peers.

None of this helps parents. What I see teachers doing with Minecraft has – at best – no prosocial impact on their family relationships – which most parents (who are struggling with screen time and screenagers) is the problem – not the material in games!

But would school play Battlefield 1 to get over the horrors or war, or let kids play Season 3 comp in Overwatch – sorry, I’ve lost my audience in the fog.

Reinstancing … 1, 2, 3 …. Entering Skirmish while waiting for game.

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