Are games good for teenagers

Players need limits!

How harmful are Computer games for children? The media expert Thomas Feibel gives answers to the six most common Parent questions.

Text: Thomas Feibel
Petra Dufkova / The Illustrators

Many families have different opinions about computer games. While this medium usually fascinates children a lot, many parents feel rather repulsed by it. They often neither understand the games nor their game mechanisms, but perceive the strong pull on young players as negative. What excites children and young people about gaming? What do you get from computer games that you don't get from other games? Answers to the most important parenting questions:

What is it that fascinates children about computer games?

Children can be anything in video games and are allowed to do things in them that they cannot do in real life: drive car races, travel through space or create a new world. With its fixed setting and complete set of rules, the game world remains manageable, and the fact that the levels are getting harder and harder is another great attraction. Everything can be tried out in peace, and unlike in reality, failure in a game does not have far-reaching consequences. If necessary, everything starts all over again. And: Computer games always have time, but parents and friends don't.

Can children learn something from computer games?

This is similar to a free game or board game. Depending on the genre of the computer game, creativity and imagination are encouraged. Concentration, ambition and perseverance can also increase. With every further level the competence of the players increases and of course they also have to learn to lose, according to the results of some studies. This is all true, but these arguments should not be exaggerated. Children don't spend their time playing games because of the learning effect, but because they enjoy it. If the focus is on learning, there are special learning games or so-called serious games that have clear learning goals. For example, the “Cloud Chaser” app from Blindflug Studios in Zurich, which deals with the topic of flight and drought.

Can computer games make you aggressive?

Every game makes you aggressive when you lose. This is already the case with the classic "Don't get angry!" so - and especially with computer games. Anyone who repeatedly fails at the same point in a game loses all composure. It is a well-known fact that children and adolescents have a particularly low tolerance for frustration, especially during puberty. So far, however, opinions differ greatly as to whether brutal games actually make you more brutal. Such a claim is usually made after a rampage. Certainly no video game is to be blamed for such an act alone, but I believe that violent games have an impact on the child's soul. Just think of the first film that scared you as a child. This one has not been forgotten to this day, right?

Can computer games be addicting?

For a long time, the game industry was able to downplay this topic: Many gamers would deal “excessively” with games, but this behavior should not be equated with addiction, they said. The World Health Organization (WHO) sees it differently and in 2018 classified gaming disorder as a disease. Many parents think that the greatest risk of addiction is 12 to 16 year olds. In fact, 20-year-olds are more likely to develop addictive behavior because they have just moved out of home and no longer experience parental control. However, there is no reason to give the all-clear. Children and young people spend significantly more time playing games than is good for them. On the one hand, this is due to the great enthusiasm with which young people pursue a popular activity. On the other hand, some have no end because many games do not have a classic ending. Nevertheless, excessive or abusive use in children is not automatically an addiction, but - pardon me - a problem with upbringing.

Should I limit my child's play time?

Time limits always make sense because you lose all sense of time when playing games with computers and consoles. Similar to television. Fixed screen times of 20 to 30 minutes a day are advisable for preschool children and 60 to 90 minutes for schoolchildren and young people. If you have used up this time with a game, the favorite series has to be dropped. Setting times alone is not enough, however. Parents must ensure compliance. So much for the plan. Unfortunately, this only works with computer and console games, as they are tied to fixed locations and thus remain in sight. With a smartphone, however, children can escape this control at any time.

What are the age recommendations for games?

The age information in Switzerland comes from the Pan European Game Information PEGI, a self-assessment of the manufacturer. In neighboring Germany, there is still the age information from the USK entertainment software. They are also often visible in Switzerland, as game manufacturers usually print their packaging for the entire German-speaking area. PEGI and USK are pure declarations of no objection in the sense of the occurrence of violence, but in no way should be confused with an age recommendation. My tip: A trailer on the net always gives a first impression. It is also helpful to search for reviews online.

Tips on games:

  • Parents don't have to try every game themselves, but they should be interested in it. This is not just an interest in games, but in your children.
  • Children would love to explain everything about games to their parents if they were more open to the topic.
  • Parents should introduce fixed screen times. This applies to games, but also to television or streaming. Setting the alarm clock helps.
  • Games are expensive. Not every game has to be bought. They can be borrowed from many public libraries.
  • App games rarely have the depth of game console games. InApp purchases attract with expanded gaming options. Young people should set a purchase limit for themselves.
  • Parents should note age information and, if necessary, read the most important information about the game in question online.

About the author:

Thomas Feibel 56, is one of the leading journalists on the subject of «children and new media» in the German-speaking area. The media expert heads the office for children's media in Berlin, holds readings and lectures, and organizes workshops and seminars. His parents' guidebook “Now put your cell phone away” was published by Ullstein-Verlag. Feibel is married and has four children.

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