Boys and Gaming: Teaching Responsibility

By Stephanie Van Raden, Rubicon International featuring Sandra Boyes, Crescent School

To Game or Not to Game?

Gaming, while not a new past-time, has become much more complex as accessibility to computers is no longer an obstacle. Additionally, the quality of computer/video games is pretty astounding as technologies in 3D animation continue to develop to create even more immersive, realistic games, giving the player a “life-like” experience. Did you know that the gaming industry is taking in more than 105 billion dollars in revenue each year?  In fact, you can now get a degree in game development and potentially make a career around video games. Gaming has a strong foothold in this generations’ media intake, and parents and teacher are looking for resources to help children develop a healthy relationship with gaming.

Recently, I sat down with one of our Educators in Residence, Sandy Boyes, to talk about how she and her team at her all-boys school in Toronto, Canada, are addressing the effects of gaming on their classroom instruction.

Should Parents and Educators be concerned about Gaming?

It has become evident that parents and schools are concerned about the amount of time their sons and students are seated at computers or smart devices in general, and playing video games in particular. Because of the “levelled” nature of video games, they never really end. This has resulted in children experiencing aspects of addiction much younger than ever before. How do we manage our boys, these games, and determine what is appropriate and what is not?

Who Can Ask the Right Questions?

I called in one of the IT experts at Crescent School, Carson McGregor. He is an  IT guru and a game-savvy teacher! He knows all the games, their pitfalls, their benefits and is able to speak to the boys authentically about the world of gaming. I invited him to speak to all the Lower School boys about online safety and guidelines for respectful gaming and determining appropriate rules for gaming during leisure time.

What Did We Find Out?

What we have found out is quite interesting. First, it has become clear that the LS boys are playing many kinds of games at all levels of difficulty and maturity, including ones that are too advanced for them. Gaming is not like Monopoly or Bridge, where it can be celebrated if a younger child is able to master the intricacies of a complex game and “play up.” Think of why a game is designated as “adult.” As an expert in his field, Mr. McGregor strongly recommends that the age-limits published on the games be followed. A 14+ or 18+ game is too advanced (in every way: violent, language, sexual, etc.) for Lower School boys to be discussing at school with other boys, let alone playing.

What Do the Boys Want to Know?

The boys asked Mr. McGregor many questions about playing online with strangers. “Is it ok even if they are nice?” The response from us “No.” A stranger is a stranger, even online. He stressed the importance of following core values of the school at all times, even if it feels safe and hidden to become someone else in an online persona. More than ever, character counts, and we told the boys the way you play, act, speak, etc. online needs to be the same as if you were there in person.

What Have We Learned?

Finally, what are some ways to manage the amount of time boys want to spend gaming? One way is to agree on a time limit, and five minutes before that time indicate your son needs to stop at the last save. (You may need to hang about, and if the bartering for more time begins, let him know that this is only showing you that the game is too much for him). Another idea is balance… time away from the computer needs to be built in (family walks, bike rides, board games night, a favorite TV program watched by everyone “unplugged”). It may be easier to have no gaming Monday to Thursday, period. Ask to play the game as well, or at least be shown the rules. Finally, we need to be good role models. If the boys see us put away our smartphones at mealtimes and family times, they will see we expect them to do the same with their games.

What can we say for sure? Gaming is exciting, enticing and here to stay. Like an amusement park or playground, where some rides and play structures require you be a certain age or height to play, the amusement park/playground of gaming also has safety restrictions. As adults, we need to be watching and listening nearby as our children play.

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