Joanneke Weerdmeester promoted as behavioral scientist at Radboud University and is expert, when it comes to topics such as digital games and mental health. She recently published an article on why the statement ‘Gaming makes young people addicted and aggressive' is outdated. We asked her for more tips on gaming.
1/ Why is gaming a positive element of child upbringing?
Gaming can improve the mood and lower the stress level. There are also some indications that gaming can stimulate certain skills, such as creativity, problem-solving skills and spatial awareness.
2/ Which three tips would you give to parents with children who like to do online gaming?
Immerse yourself in the wide range of games. There is a great variation in types of games available on the market. When you broaden your knowledge, it becomes easier to talk about gaming with your children. For example, there are gameplay videos that you can watch online to learn about the content of games, before buying them.
Try gaming together with your child(ren)! There are more and more games available that you can play together, also when you are not very skilled in gaming. Many children enjoy teaching others how to play games. So try and look for games in the category ‘co-op’ or ‘couch co-op’.
Have an open conversation about gaming. Ask your children which games they enjoy playing and why they enjoy playing these games. Through expressing interest, it will be easier to enforce certain restrictions in the future, if needed.
3/ Which three tips on gaming would you give children?
Try different types of games. Don’t only play the most popular or trendy games. There is such a wide variety to choose from! Try something different!
Ask your friends and family to game together with you. Maybe you feel that your parents, siblings or friends wouldn’t enjoy gaming with you, but have you already tried to play something with them? Or have you tried to show them how your favorite game works? Maybe it will help them understand why you like to game, and maybe you’ll be positively surprised and end up enjoying gaming together!
Gaming has to stay fun. If for whatever reason you feel uneasy, choose a different game, play with someone else, or talk about it (for example with your parents).
4/ What is your favorite (type of) game for children?
Mostly games with a social element to them. Famous examples of these are ‘Mario Kart’ and ‘Super Mario Party’ or ‘Minecraft’, which also has a creative element to it. There are also more and more boardgames that can be played together online (like on the platform ‘boardgames arena’). But when answering your question, I think mostly of games that focus on cooperation, so called ‘co-op games’. You can play these online (‘online co-op’) as well as next to each other on the sofa (‘couch co-op’). Maybe try out games such as: ‘Moving Out’, ‘Snipperclips’, ‘Unravel Two’, ‘Overcooked’ and ‘Untitled Goose Game’.
5/ What will your next research be about?
Thankfully the research methods we have are improving, enabling us to learn more about the positive as well as the negative aspects of games. There is still a need for more research on the border between normative and problematic game behavior. When exactly is gaming problematic and when not? Are certain people more sensitive to developing problematic gaming behavior? Which specific design elements of games can have negative or positive effects? How can we make games that positively contribute to our wellbeing and development? With this knowledge we can contribute to a healthy balance in the use of games and other digital media.