How Playing Video Games Saved Us During a Year of Isolation ~
Written by Erin Vincent
“Mama, I’m lonely.”
Those words seared into my brain. We were only a few months into the pandemic of 2020 when my 13-year-old son uttered them. But what could a mom do to protect the mental well-being of her child when the whole world was shut down and full of fear?
Even though I am an introverted homeschool mom to my core, my children thrive on extracurriculars and social interactions.
Until this past year, I never put much stock in video games other than as a fun waste of time.
I can play Super Mario Brothers 1, 2, and 3 with the best of them! Legend of Zelda on the original Nintendo? I got this! But when it comes to the newer game systems and games themselves, I am out of my depth.
I did try.
My son convinced me to play one of his games on X-box, but I mostly ran around chopping down trees and getting dizzy from the 3D camera angles. Then I fell off a cliff. I’m not much better at playing Minecraft with my daughter.
That is the extent of my gaming experience.
Lucky for us, my husband is no stranger to the world of PC Gaming, PlayStations, or the Xbox.
How Playing Video Games Saved Us During a Year of Isolation
My husband first suggested getting my son and his uncles, who live over 200 hundred miles away, playing video games together. My daughter connected with her cousin through Minecraft.
They all enjoyed it and made sure to set aside time each week to play and chat together.
I continued trying to think of other social outlets for both my kiddos, and that’s when I remembered Outschool. My children have taken online classes with them before for Italian, Spanish, and even writing. I checked it out, and sure enough, they have a Minecraft Social Club for my daughter’s age range and an ARK Challenge Club that I suspected would be perfect for my son.
The interaction of kids that they could play with remotely each week was what my children needed. It was a perfect way for my two extroverts to meet and hang out with other kids during a time of social distancing.
Benefits of Playing Video Games
Board games and card games have always been an essential part of our homeschool. It turns out that the benefits of those games are also present in video games.
All games provide opportunities for:
- cooperation skills
- conflict resolution
- critical thinking skills
- literacy skills
- problem-solving skills
- math skills
- verbal communication skills
My son and daughter’s spelling even improved because of using the chat features!
I constantly checked in with the kids to make sure they were content and enjoying the online classes and relationships.
Both children loved playing games with their friends and family, but it turns out video games were a lifeline for my teen son and his social/emotional well-being.
Keep it Safe
There are pros and cons to online video games. As a parent, you must decide what works best for your family and your child. Moderation and supervision are key with all technology.
It is essential to know what games your child is playing and decide up front what time limits you’ll place on gaming, if any.
For our family, it is a must that all homeschool activities and chores be completed before online gaming unless there is a scheduled class.
Familiarize yourself with the parental and privacy controls associated with the game systems and set ground rules for playing with others, such as restricting interactions to only playing with other known and approved players.
These boundaries allowed my son the benefits of online gaming while providing me with peace of mind.
Positive Effects of Video Games
For my kids, video games provided a social outlet that boosted their self-esteem. They were able to play and connect with family and friends. By joining an online gaming class with secure servers, they were able to make new friends that shared their interests. It meant community during a time of isolation.
My son even stepped up when his class teacher had a family emergency and couldn’t provide a challenge for the class that week. My son asked if he might lead the challenge, so his classmates didn’t have to miss their last class before summer vacation.
This was one of those affirming moments when you realize that maybe you are doing this parenting thing ok-ish.
Even though 2020 has come to an end and the possibility of things getting back to normal is on the horizon, we will be keeping video games as part of our family culture and homeschool for as long as it works for us.
Remember, just because something doesn’t interest you doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value.
What may look like a fun waste of time to you may teach your child valuable skills while providing them with precisely what they need for their mental and emotional well-being.
Has your family seen any benefits from playing video games in your homeschool?
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I began teaching on Outschool almost exactly a year ago with the intent of teaching foreign languages, my area of expertise, but before long my schedule was filled up with Roblox Social Clubs because that was what parents and kids needed during this time – not just another way to learn online, but a way to unwind with other kids. I love seeing the relationships forged and the social lessons taught. I also enjoy being able to provide a safe space so parents know their kids aren’t in a chat room with questionable individuals on the other end. It’s truly a special medium and I am so grateful for the opportunity to have this platform. Thanks for shining a light on this option for parents!
Jamie C. Martin
That’s so wonderful to hear, Angela – thanks for sharing!