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About practising media, emotional and social skills

This article was originally published in the Game Educator’s Handbook.

Gaming involves a wide variety of different kinds of emotions, and processing them together with an adult strengthens children’s emotional skills. Parents should observe the emotions and reactions gaming produces in their children so that they can steer their gaming into a positive and safe direction. Gaming provides good opportunities for practising how to deal with disappointments, as well as excitement and calming down. Parents can share their children’s joy of achievement in a game, but they can also help their children to become aware of how gaming makes them feel. When children take part in game culture, parents can help to strengthen their media literacy by discussing for example the following questions with them: What makes a game interesting or attractive? How can players proceed in the game? For whom is the game designed? Why is it sometimes difficult to stop playing?

Children should be encouraged to talk about any unpleasant or frightening things they might come across when gaming. Showing interest in children’s gaming and use of media also helps to create an open atmosphere for discussion, which also promotes safer media use. It is also good to contemplate together how gaming affects interaction in the family and the daily lives of the other family members. How is the atmosphere at home during and after gaming? How do the other children feel if one child always throws a tantrum when they lose? Processing these kinds of questions also helps to take other people into account.

Sometimes gaming causes friction at home. The other family members might not be happy if one member of the family spends all the evenings by the computer with their headphones on, shouting and cheering with their online friends when their team succeeds. Sometimes there might be disagreements about whose turn it is to use the family’s shared device. Other times the cause of friction might be that the family member who spends a lot of time gaming does not participate in the household chores or loses their temper when they are told to join the rest of the family for a meal or a family visit. Children should be reminded that, as part of good gaming behaviour, they must also be able to take care of other things in their life and show consideration for the other family members, for example by keeping the volume of their game reasonable.

With older children, it is also good to discuss the culture of the games they play. How do players talk to each other, what is the tone of interaction like? Do players verbally insult each other, and how do they react to failures? Does the game include for example abuse, exclusion, game rage or hate speech, and what should one think about them? Every game has its own culture, which is created within the framework provided by the game environment and through the interaction between the players. It is good to encourage children to be fair players and behave in a supportive and positive manner towards others also when gaming. By putting themselves in their friend’s situation or seeing from their perspective, children develop their empathy skills.

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