Engaging your kids through online games

Have you tried gaming with your kids? :)

Me, strolling in our virtual world in Roblox

The ability to manage my work schedule flexibly allowed me to work from home for a large part of the week. Along with that privilege, I was able to spend a considerable amount of time with my kids at home. For those who have kids, I’m sure you would agree with me the joy of being able to watch them grow up is priceless.

One of the things that you can always her from my little girl is the constant request of “Daddy, can you play with me?”! As with all of us, very busy adults, we tend to overlook this simple request and sometimes even felt the frustration kick in especially when you’ve got an enormous amount of work to get through. I myself am sometimes guilty of hoping that they would leave me alone.

However, being a HR practitioner for such a long time, I reflected on how I’ve been managing the kids as with a manager with his/ her staff. Something that was glaringly obvious and plain stood out for me. I guess you know what I’m driving to. I realized that kids enjoy the attention and engagement as much as any employee in any organizations.

As I drew that comparison between home and workplace, I noticed a similarity that managers that’s managing employees of a different generation have with us parents in managing our kids. That is, we often find it difficult to connect and engage at the same frequency with someone from a different generation.

In my interactions with other parents, I realized that the topic of games and screen time tend to some kind of a touchy topic to bring up. Especially some of the parents that I know of, observe very strict rules around screen time and playing of games.

However, my experience with games had been somewhat different. We have to acknowledge that kids of this generation grow up with technology all around them. My kids asked Google home for practically everything from turning on the lights, telling time to even telling them jokes when they are bored. iPad time for them is like a reward that motivates them to get things done. It’s not all bad. The games that they play, such as MineCraft, the coding game by CodeSpark seemed to be good for them. There are of course, a whole list of other games that doesn’t seemed to be of any benefits whatsoever.

Having said that, we have to acknowledge that there is this virtual world that many of us are not familiar with, and quite honestly stayed away from as much as we could. 4 out of 5 parents that I spoke to don’t play computer or online games with their kids. For those who does, quite a few of them choose the game that they play. If you ask their kids why they are play the games that they’re playing, they would say, “Because that’s the only game daddy wants to play”.

This is interesting. In many of these situations, the kids were compensating for the adult’s choice of games so that they get some engagement time with the parents. Maybe I should scope this a little. The kids we are talking about are below the age of 14.

When I pose the question back to the kids on what games would they normally play and what games would they like to play with their parents, the answer is often rather interesting. Ask also the reason for their choices, it’s usually a very simple “because I enjoyed it”.

The point that I’m driving to is that there is a virtual world that our kids live in. Like it or not, it’s there and they will grow up knowing this world. Of the parents that I interacted with, many of us are not thinking too much about it, other than just the amount of screen time that they’re spending on their devices.

I was surprised when I started playing in their virtual world instead of making them play in mine. What does this mean? I asked the kids, what games would they like to play, and we spend time playing by their rules. The interactions and engagements that took place was at a different level. This is the time when I truly saw the kids “at home” with the virtual world that they’re playing in, and I came to appreciate the opportunity to see how they truly behave and some of that personality that I don’t see often.

No, I don’t particularly enjoy running around the virtual theme park in Roblox, nor some of the kiddy outfit that I need to dress my avatar in. Or, having that jingle ring in your head for weeks after watching hours of youtube video with them. However, that seemed to make my kids’ day and there’s always this loud “announcement” that “Daddy’s in the game” whenever I join them in their virtual realm!

There are also some added benefits of us engaging them in their own world. I don’t know how you feel about parental controls, but for me, I felt that the best parental controls would be to be able to talk to the kids about the dangers of the online world. Some of the things that we saw on Roblox and youtube were quite troubling. I was glad that my kids and I could had a conversation around that, and they’ve since steer clear of such undesirable content.

Have a go, try engaging your kids in their virtual world. You can start by asking “what is your favorite game?”, and “can I play with you?”. I’m sure you’ll be surprise when what you can learn from that experience.

Happy gaming and happy parenting!

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Edit: You might like my next article “Business lessons from my 9 year old kid” if you enjoyed this one.

Eric Wong is a father of 2 amazing kids and is constantly learning from them. For work, Eric’s the Managing Consultant from The Talent Shark and the CHRO forIntel Wise. His experience spans across the various human resource functions such as HR Information Systems, Business Partnering and Talent Management. Eric currently sits on the Advisory Board of the Management Development Institute of Singapore (MDIS). Connect with him on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter @ErickyWong.