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Gaming Is A Stress Reliever For The Entire Family
Guest post by Emily Graham, mightymoms.net
Back in March, our world changed overnight. Instead of a carefree society, where we gathered for football games and birthday parties, we were suddenly thrust into a situation where social distancing meant children could not go to school with their friends and nursing homes shut their doors to visitors. Unfortunately, although we are starting to learn a little more about the COVID-19 virus, much remains a mystery, and we continue to do whatever it takes to keep ourselves and our families safe.
There has been one bright spot, however, in the midst of the pandemic. Now more than ever before, people are spending more time at home with their spouses and children. As many of us remain in a perpetual quarantining state, we are working from our home offices, and many of our children continue to learn from a distance. One unexpected but inevitable outcome of self-isolation is that families today are playing more video games together, and some experts believe this is one way to reduce stress in what is unquestionably the most anxiety-filled time in many of our lives.
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Pandemic Stress And How Gaming Can Help
The pandemic might bring on fear and worry difficulty sleeping changes in mood, or an unexpected burst of emotions. This can happen in both children and adults, and these new feelings are not pleasant.
While most children’s health providers and parenting experts will warn you not to neglect outdoor time and exercise, video gaming does have its benefits, particularly in a time where we're being conditioned to stay away from in-person activities. Gaming is a form of mindless meditation, meaning the brain is on autopilot or focusing on the task at hand. This is an excellent opportunity to forget -- even if just for an hour -- the worries of the world.
Video gaming in today’s age also means socialization opportunities for older children, provided that you take the time to understand internet safety and teach the same to your gamers.
If you haven’t yet, now is the time to pay very close attention to online safety. Remember, you and your children are not the only ones with more time on your hands; cybercriminals and other unscrupulous individuals do, too. InternetMatters.org offers several suggestions on setting up kids’ tech devices. These include:
Set parental controls from the broadband
Change device settings to only allow games that are age-appropriate
Disable location services
Use passwords for in-app purchases or disable this option completely
Educate children about online safety
Perhaps most importantly, disable in-game chat. Depending on the games your children are playing, this may be under the account settings or privacy option. Blocking people from being able to openly communicate with your child is the best way to keep them from receiving messages that are threatening, bullying, or sexual in nature.
The Internet Load
Internet usage has also skyrocketed since the onset of the pandemic. Fortunately, as NCTA points out, cable providers across the country have invested nearly $300 billion into technology and infrastructure. This means that the vast majority of areas have been able to effectively handle an all-day spike in online activity.
Still, many online gamers may notice a frustrating lag in connectivity. This is especially true for teens who may be doing online multiplayer games. In this instance and if it’s available in your location, it is almost always best to have a 5G connection, which reduces lag time and buffering. It will also create a smoother user experience and allow for fast downloads.
If fiber-optic is not available in your area, there are a few tips you can utilize to reduce your data usage. These include:
Understand your energy usage options
Power down devices when not in use
Maintain up-to-date software, including antivirus and anti-spyware
Use parental controls to keep tabs on individual usage
Ask your provider how various devices use your internet
Best Games For The Family
One quick trip to the game store, and it’s easy to see that your options are virtually unlimited. There are, of course, Fortnite, Roblox, and Minecraft, three of the most popular gaming franchises at the moment, but that does not mean these are best for families. Before you can decide on which games are best, you’ll need to take a look at what systems are currently available.
Families with younger children may find that the Nintendo Switch is a great fit. Not only does this system come with access to Super Mario – an unrivaled classic since the '80s – they are also fairly easy to use. The standard Switch also works as a single-person device or can be hooked up to a television for full-family play. Switch Lite is a handheld-only device but can be linked via a Nintendo account for cooperative play.
When you have teenagers, you can’t go wrong with Microsoft’s Xbox or the Sony PS4. Both of these systems cater to a more mature audience. If your kids prefer playing games online, you may have to invest in a new tablet or laptop.
Once you decide on a system, you can get to work choosing games. When you have younger kids, Hasbro Family Game Night and Carnival Games are both solid choices for the Switch console or the Playstation. They are easy to learn and are appropriate for kids of all ages. Older children might enjoy playing an RPG with mom and dad, and No Man’s Sky and Dragon Quest Builders are good choices. Those that enjoy creative collaboration may like Lego Worlds, Minecraft, or Overcooked.
For all ages, the Mario Maker series can’t be beat. Not only will this help introduce your children to your own favorite video games, but it also allows them to create worlds of their own, which they can share with their friends and family. It combines the best of both independent gameplay and creativity with family time.
Key points to remember:
The stress of the pandemic can take a toll on the youngest members of our families. Video gaming is one way to help alleviate this while enjoying time with the kids.
Online security is exponentially important since hackers also have lots of free time on their hands. Our children are more vulnerable now, and the safety measures you enact today will help keep them safe.
Each video game series and platform caters to a different audience. Do your research, and look for a system that works based on the ages and interests of those you love.
Video games are not a substitute for one-on-one time or outdoor play. They are an excellent way to supplement family time, and they can help relieve stress. Ultimately, you must find a balance between having your children interact in a digital world with helping them continue to forge relationships in the real world.
Good luck with choosing your video game adventure. Together, you and your children can embark upon a creative journey that will only bring you closer together. And, if nothing else, you will learn to speak their language, and they will remember afternoons laughing with their family long after the pandemic has ended.