Parenting for a Digital Future
"We have to prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child." - Tim Elmore
No one says parenting is easy, especially in the digital era. Technology has changed the way we interact with one another, it affects how we think and act. Modern-day parents are concerned about the impact of video games on their children. If you feel your child is wasting too much of his time in front of a screen, you are not alone.
Are video games bad for children? In the West, long term research has been conducted about the pros and cons of gaming. Contrary to the popular belief, the latest research from the UK and the US shows gaming may not be as bad as most parents think. In fact, experts suggested that it could be other issues at home or school that trigger a child spending long hours playing game excessively.
It is not surprising that children use games to escape problems and frustrating situations. Gaming diverts a child’s attention away from the real issue that bothers him, just like some adults would turn to alcohol or cigarettes to reduce stress and anxiety when they failed to find solutions to cope with difficult situations.
So, is gaming obsession really about the games? The truth is, no game can replace the feelings of warmth, safe and wanted in a home that comes from parents who love their children unconditionally and take the time to tell them so. Children who have a healthy relationship with their parents are better at regulating their emotions than turning to games to run away from problems.
In 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) teamed up with the video game industry and launched #PlayApartTogether to encourage families to stay at home and play video games together. They see this as one of the better solutions to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and to strengthen family ties.
Although online games get a lot of bad press, an article in the New York Times Magazine published on 23rd February 2020 suggested that gamers are better prepared for the jobs of the future because they understand the importance of strategic thinking. Today, professional gaming is a real job and esports (electronic sports) are real sports. Many earn a good living working as professional esports gamers, coaches, analysts, social media marketing manager, league manager, online streamer etc.
The world has changed drastically since I was a child. As a parent myself, the last thing I want is fail to recognize the needs of my son, who belongs to “net kids” of Z generation. We see how the younger generations interact with one another with different expectations and communication styles. But most of all, they see the world differently than we do. To avoid conflict, I believe parents need to find ways to close the generation gap. Love and mutual respect are great things to have, but what most teenage-parent relationships lack are trust and understanding.
As modern-day parents, we need to grow along with our kids and understand the kind of technology they are immersed in. We must do all we can to find out their world and provide age-appropriate support or we will be left behind. Conflict happens for a reason. The time has changed and so must we.
Like most kids, my son developed an interest in card games when he was in primary three. At the age of eleven, he got serious with a Japanese version card game called Vanguard. Flashback eight years ago, Vanguard was very popular among university students. He would ask me to bring him to almost all the Vanguard competitions every Friday.
He was the youngest player there. Over a period of time, he developed analytical skills while having fun mingling with older students. He learned to build strategic thinking each time he joined a competition. He would reflect on his experience when he failed to get into the top five winners list.
When he was twelve, he beat the best player for the first time, a university student from Hong Kong. The experience boosted his confidence, and he continued to find ways to improve his skills. But best of all, he cultivated good friendships with some of them despite the huge age gap.
To cut the story short, he was listed the best top 8 Vanguard players in Malaysia, and an underage one. Because he has “made a name” for himself, he worked as a part-time “Vanguard consultant” for a fee to earn extra pocket money to support his interest. He continued to teach younger kids how to maximize the chances of winning the game until one day he set his eyes on online games.
You probably wondering why, unlike many parents, I didn’t discourage my son to play games. The answer is simple. Research has shown that gaming helps develop cognitive skills in both children and adults. To win a game, players must exercise good critical thinking and good decision-making skills besides having the right people on their team. Gaming helps my son learn the connections between current efforts and subsequent results. He also learns how to make a split-second decision using his best judgement.
Since he was nine, I had made it very clear that school came first, and everything else was secondary. He understood it was his responsibility to figure out a way to balance his study and his “career”, or he would lose his “career” and become a “full time” student. There was a mutual understanding between us. So he learned to study smarter and applied effective study strategies that would work for him to maintain the desired results throughout his primary and secondary years.
Currently he is a second year university student majoring in Bachelor of Business Analytics. He is on full scholarship which requires him to maintain a GPA of 3.9 or higher. At the same time, he continues to pursue esports to improve his ranking in Asia. He also runs a small business to finance his monthly expenses. In December 2019, before COVID-19 became a pandemic, he and his team flew to China to compete with universities worldwide in the International eSports Inter-Universities Competition in Hainan. His team was ranked in third place. The trip was sponsored by a leading esports tournament organizer from China.
This is the reality. It is expected global esports market revenue will reach almost 1.6 billion U.S. dollars in 2023. There will be more jobs in esports than ever before. Many universities in the US are offering esports scholarships to students. More UK colleges and universities are integrating esports into their courses, offering standalone esports courses or a degree in esports. Currently, China is building some of the best esports stadiums in the world and a research centre to create high-quality games by 2025.
Like most parents born in the 60s, I don’t understand everything about the gaming world. Such game didn’t exist in my world when I was a kid. Never in a million years would I think that the games my son played online would end up becoming esports one day, and it is recognized as legitimate sports.
It is obvious kids love to play video games, and some will turn it into an actual career one day. Perhaps if we as parents can debunk any myths we have been subscribed to gaming all these years but do some research to get the facts about the kind of world our kids are living in, we will not use video games as a scapegoat for family problems.
There was a time where parents expected their children to grow up to become doctors, lawyers, engineers and see it as the key to wealth. Today, technology has continually led to the creation of new jobs which can be more lucrative. The internet has changed the world. Some pieces of conventional wisdom on parenting we believe in have proven outdated; it ranges from misinformed to dangerous.
If education experts generally agreed that education needs to change so that our kids are better prepared for the real world, as parents, we need to look into our parenting styles. We need to modify our strategies and make continuous and flexible adjustments tailored to suit the specific needs of modern-day children and current industry trends. Instead of making our kids follow the safe routes we once travelled; they may go even further than we can imagine if we as parents are better informed and be willing to adapt to new changes in a world where children are growing up online.
Published in Dreamic Educational Magazine 2021.