One Problem I See
By: Ziggy Salvation
(5 min read)
As expansive and popular as the gaming culture has become in recent years, it has also become lucrative and, in rare cases, has turned into a career. This has kind of curbed the answer to the typical question of “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
You used to hear kids say things like a police officer, firefighter, or doctor. These days you hear answers like becoming a YouTuber, professional gamer, or content creator, and in turn, you see kids younger and younger becoming competitive in this digital space. And we all want to see our kids’ dreams come true, right? The question is, how do we make sure they’re engaging in online play and keep them safe at the same time?
Culture has kind of swung in the direction where you see kids with tablets and phones fully immersed in YouTube pages of their favorite content creators, reviewers, or game replay channels. You hear kids who don’t have a game console at home explain the entirety of the game without ever having personally experienced it. They do the research and watch the videos, and learn everything they can just to be able to stay engaged in conversation with their peers.
Being the lifelong gamer that I am, it excites me to see the thing we all used to get made fun of for participating in become normalized. At the same time, I feel that it’s more important than ever to be engaged in the things our kids spend so much time pouring their attention into. Now, I’m going to age myself a little bit right here, but back in my day, games were single-player. Multiplayer games meant multiple controllers on a single console and watching your game split into sections for each player. Today we play online, with people from all walks of life playing one game at a time, but it’s also a great gathering place for trolls to practice their best insults. As someone who has participated in this lifestyle for as long as I have, I’m well accustomed to the trash talk. The bothersome part is when you’re playing Call of Duty, and you hear a tiny squeaky voice of a kid who can’t be more than nine years old come over the voice chat yelling, “You suck, you fucking idiot!” At first, I won’t lie, I used to giggle, but these days I typically think, where the hell are these kids’ parents?!
I have a twelve-year-old son who loves gaming, and though he has lost the privilege to play for quite a bit of time, I’ve always stressed that the voice chat is to be turned off unless it’s someone we know directly.
We need to remember that just because this is the “new normal” for kids to participate in, we still need to have conversations about the safe way to play. When most of us were younger and played a sport. We had a coach or a parent talk us down and calm us when we became frustrated, mad, or even sad because our performance was less than what we wanted it to be or what we thought others expected. Translate that to kids today who are dumping six to 10 hours a day into these highly competitive games and rarely winning, they are being completely demoralized verbally over and over and over again. The pressure is on even more so because their friends at school all talk about the same game, where their rank or achievements are unlocked. This creates a social prowess amongst the youth.
I’m all about healthy competitive play, trust me, it’s how I cut my teeth in this shit. But the more involved these games are becoming, a 10-minute Google search can tell you a lot about the title your young ones have recently become obsessed with.
Now, I recognize I’m no one to tell anyone how to parent a child; I would, however, love to ask anyone that can relate to this if they notice these traits about their child or teen.
Has your child become way more mouthy than usual, especially after an extended gaming session? Do they sneak late after bedtime to get on the game just to play one more? Do you notice there are other interests and hobbies they once loved? Are they no longer practicing them or showing interest? If you answer yes to any or all of these, step in and get to know the content your child is ingesting at such a blinding rate.
Please know that I’m not recommending this to deter any kid—a teen or hell, even adults—from enjoying gaming. Quite the opposite, I’m asking for more engagement from the parental side to ensure proper reality breaks are being taken to help the longevity of your child’s real-world interaction. I am truly excited about normalizing the gaming culture that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. Helping players form healthy habits now will help them separate the two realities they now balance, living between two worlds—ours and one of pixels.
One last recommendation, pay attention to the content creators they’re keeping tabs on. Scope out their videos, try to catch a live stream, and try to understand their demeanor, language, and phrases. We were ALL impressionable kids and have adopted habits of those most influential on us. In this day in age, those people are often found digitally instead of being a kid in the neighborhood rubbing off on our kids. I have found that doing a little research on the content creator to be personally beneficial to my household operation by just having that extra insight into the preteen gamer brain has worked miracles. I hope this can help someone else notice the same things happening in their homes.
This comes from someone who frequently livestreams on Twitch and understands the culture well. When I come across kids that find out what I do, I go straight to their parents and say, “Yo, my streams are NOT kid friendly. Simply regarding language alone, I often play graphic, violent, or profanity games.” I just find that transparency is the best policy when wanting to learn.
All this being said, I’m not trying to make anyone fear gaming online for what they will encounter. I’m not trying to get games taken away from anyone’s kids or ban them from enjoying them. I am purely and simply trying to share my perspective of what I’ve seen develop over the last couple of decades. I was extremely lucky and had two parents give a shit about what I did; granted, they let me be quite engulfed in it, but they were never unaware of what I was playing, whom I was playing with, and the relationships of the people I played with. More often than not, I would refer to those I played with for hours on end by their online handles, and my mother and father would put them in one of two categories. Real People for those I knew in real life outside of the game. And Fake People for those I only knew by pixels. Just showing that bit of interest made me feel, as a kid, that my parents gave a damn about what I was spending a lot of my free time doing. Looking back, it means way more to me now as a parent than it did as a kid, and little did I realize how lucky I was that they cared.
This is why I’m sharing these little bits here, friends. I love the gaming world and want to see it continue to thrive, see what talent rises within it, and see where the world of gaming leads in the future. We just have to ensure the integrity of our youngest players is kept as healthy as it can be for as long as it can. I just feel it can last a little longer, with the minimal investigation and checking up on the younglings to ensure they’re doing ok and things are processed and able to be kept separate between flesh and blood and pixels.
Thanks for listening to my rant, lol. I appreciate you all.
All Things Wellness, LLC
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