Can someone teach my 18-month old how to play Fortnite? Maybe Among Us? There’s no controller for that. The amount that this tiny human wants to be doing anything I’m doing is starting to drive me crazy. I’m hoping there is some miracle app or game that will let me have three minutes of peace alone in the bathroom. Bubble Guppies is just not cutting it.
I touched earlier on how I attempted merging my son into my own personal nerd world of gaming when he was three, and he fought it with all his might. It’s going to be different with the second born. This girl is raring to go. Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Stardew Valley on Nintendo Switch stop her dead in her tracks. She just lacks the coordination… and ability to read… and comprehend, that’s all. But big brother does it, mom does it, dad does it, so why can’t she? Right now my closest solution is giving her a wireless Xbox One controller — after removing the battery, so she can’t mess with anything — and that at least buys me some time before she realizes the little light isn’t turning on and the controller isn’t actually moving anything in the video games. That isn’t going to last much longer. Someone told her she could grow up, and she’s getting smart, fast.
Not only am I worrying about her ability to game, and trust me I am, but as parents we are constantly concerned about screen time, violent video games, language and pretty much everything else our children can see and/or hear, especially on the internet. Sure more violent games like Fortnite are fun and colourful, but should I be letting her see that on the screen? Shooting, pickaxing… mom yelling at the TV all the time? Okay, probably (definitely) not that last one.
I’ve narrowed down how to get them ready for gaming to a couple of things. One is communication with our children, you’ll hear me talk about a lot of that here. I was raised in the 80s and 90s where I definitely saw things you’d NEVER show kids today. But my parents taught me right from wrong, real from fake. My 6-year old isn’t running around smashing walls and pointing guns at his friends after playing online games. Even our family NERF fights have balloon targets. We lead by example, and we talk everything out — always. Make sure your kids understand what is going on, don’t just lecture them, have conversations about the content they’re playing and seeing, get them involved.
The second thing I do is find video games that my children enjoy based on MY children. Not an age range, not a general rating. No one knows children better than their grown-ups. Sure, Epic Games decided that no children under 12 should be playing Fortnite, but I have surely met some teenagers that shouldn’t be gaming if they have access to anonymity and a microphone. My son can handle it, and if there comes a day when he can’t, it will stop. Of course my little girl can’t seriously be gaming yet. She doesn’t have the capability to understand how yet. Her speed is more spending time watching us game, or playing with some lockable apps on the tablet. Bubble Bliss and Sensory Baby Toddler Learning are her favourite games right now. Basically any games she can press with her fingers…or toes…or face.
Yes there are limits, we all have to use our best judgment. Let’s not go pushing games like Outriders on the tiny humans, if just for the server issues alone. And if you just aren’t sure if they are ready for YOUR kind of video games, there are a lot of really cool systems you can find specifically designed for kids geared toward learning, and I’ll make sure to touch on them in a later column. They deserve recognition of their own.
What I’m trying to do here is just normalize your children hanging out with you. Normalize mom or dad enjoying the activity as much as the kids do. Just because we had children doesn’t mean everything we love is lost or pushed until after dark. The video game industry knows that our kids are the future of gaming. It’s our job to teach them what we know and geek them out. Just make sure you guide them through it, and don’t push them too fast. Our children are too young for gaming until WE decide they are ready, and that’s all there is to it.