What parents just don’t get about video games

New research reveals a generational disconnect over online games, with 94% of young people expressing positive feelings about the activity, yet only 15% of parents identifying benefits for their child.

report from Australia’s eSafety Commissioner outlines the findings from a survey of more than 2000 young people aged 8 – 17 years old and their parents or carers, as well as a diary study and focus groups involving an additional 43 participants.

“We know parents talk about their children’s online gaming experiences with each other […] let’s all go a step further and start having those same conversations with our children. Even better, let’s co-view and co-play online games with our kids and be much more engaged in their online lives,” says eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant.

The report comes ahead of the fifth season of Cosmos podcast ‘Debunks’ set to focus on the science of screens, with the first episode tackling video games and violence. Subscribe to the series (details below) so you’ll know when the episode gets posted.

According to the eSafety research, young people report their experience of online games as “overwhelmingly positive”. Their motivations for playing include: having fun (81%), avoiding boredom (64%), relaxing (54%) and connecting with friends (53%). 

The majority – 76% of young respondents – say games also help with skills development, social connection and emotional wellbeing. And most also enjoyed positive interactions with others in online gaming environments.

Parents meanwhile were less enthusiastic about the activity. When asked how they felt about their child playing video games, the most common response from parents was “okay” (45%), with a third (34%) expressing only concerns about online play. 

Young people were well aware of their parents’ attitudes.

The majority (58%) of young gamers note at least one negative perception, with parents saying they spend too much time playing (41%), preferring they didn’t play video games at all (28%). Those in the focus groups say adults generally view games as an unproductive waste of time.

According to the report, young people were keen for adults to better understand the positives emotions and benefits associated with playing video games. 

“When we asked young gamers what they would like adults in their life to understand about gaming, the most common response (40%) from young gamers related to how fun or exciting they found gaming or how happy it made them,” the report says.

Other young gamers expressed that they were keen for the adults in their life to understand that gaming had benefits for them in terms of learning, creativity or skill development (10%), or that it helped them to relax, or benefited their mental health in other ways (11%).

And a significant share of young people – 52% of children and 27% of teens – want their parents and carers to join in the fun.

For parents with concerns about video games, Inman Grant says joining in provides an opportunity to role-model safe online behaviours. 

“Playing online games with your children offers an incredible joint learning experience. For us parents, we can learn from our child’s mastery and games strategy. For our children, they can benefit from our life experience to better navigate their online lives with safety and respect for others,” she said.

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