Helping parents deal with kids' gaming

From 10:30 until noon, Dr. Schleifer will be talking to parents about just that during the “Video Games: Creating a Family Plan” event at the Wilton Library on Wednesday, Feb. 5.

“You typically see a real uptick in the amount kids playing video games between the ages of 7 and 15,” said Dr. Schleifer.

“The age range kids begin playing keeps getting younger and younger, though, so I feel like I’ll probably be addressing questions about kids who are younger than that.”

Dr. Schleifer said what he is going to talk about “goes beyond the technology.”

“It has a lot more to do with being able to look past content and look past some of the challenges related to the amount of time spent playing,” he said.

Dr. Schleifer received his doctorate in clinical psychology from the Gordon F. Derner Center for Psychoanalytic Studies at Adelphi University, where he wrote his dissertation on the long-term and short-terms effects of video games on children.

At the event, Dr. Schleifer said, he is going to focus on helping families figure out a good, acceptable amount of time parents feel comfortable with for their kids playing video games.

“It’s about parents, the challenges they face when it comes to setting limits, and being able to set up systems in their home that they’re comfortable with and can regulate logistically,” he said.

As for video game content, Dr. Schleifer said it ultimately comes down to where individual families draw the line.

“Each family has a different set of values around what they’re comfortable with. Some families are easier to talk to about sex or drugs. Other families aren’t as comfortable because their lines are different,” he said.

“I’m not going to say, ‘Here’s the line.’ I’m going to be helping families figure out what that line is and being comfortable with setting that.”

Game content

In addition to helping parents develop plans for managing their children’s video game use, Dr. Schleifer said, he will introduce them to a new way of looking at their children’s gaming habits.

“What I want parents to take away from the talk is, You have a real opportunity with video games to explore some of these mature contents with your children,” he said.

“It provides an avenue of discussion that is otherwise maybe not really there.”

If a child plays games with explicit material like Grand Theft Auto, said Dr. Schleifer, parents can take the opportunity to begin a dialogue with their child about some of the content in the video game.

Dr. Schleifer said he believes fear is one of the reasons kids are attracted to violent video games.

“I think a part of them is scared of these things and they don’t know how to process or think about death, violence and bad things happening,” he said.

“There isn’t really an avenue to examine these things, and games allow them to examine them — but if it’s unchecked by parents and they’re not adding the dialogue with it, then a lot gets lost.”

Dr. Schleifer said he gets the bulk of his information about video games and children from his experience as a  child and adolescent psychologist.

“I get a lot of referrals for teenage boys and a lot of the things they’re struggling with has to do with video games,” explained Dr. Schleifer.

“A lot of it ties into time management, their academics, and also the social aspect of it — spending too much time playing video games and not enough time out in the world.”

At the five previous discussions he has done about video games and children, Dr. Schleifer said the majority of attendees have been women.

Dr. Schleifer said he has noticed a lot of the parents who attend his speaking events tend to be in their late 30s and early 40s.

Parental views

Despite being “the first generation of parents who have grown up with video games,” he said, many of them don’t feel the same way about them.

“A lot of times, the mothers will say, ‘His father doesn’t agree with me about video games’ or ‘They’re always playing video games together’ — something along those lines,” he said.

“Some of the work that I’m doing is trying to get the parents on the same page with regard to the gender differences.”

Dr. Schleifer said the goal is to help parents find a middle ground so they can move forward and find the best way to approach their kids about video games.

Another issue Dr. Schleifer said he’s noticed is parents’ black-and-white views on video games.

“By saying video games are either all good or all bad, there’s so much that you potentially miss out on,” he said.

“You miss a window of opportunity to find out what types of things your kids are interested in.”

Dr. Schleifer said he draws a lot of parallels to what rock ’n’ roll was in the 50s.

“There was a very polarized view of that as well,” he said.

“A lot of times, parents would alienate themselves from their kids simply by saying, ‘I don’t agree with this rock ’n’ roll music.’ By doing so, they missed out on what was going on with their kids.”

By looking at the types of games children not only enjoy playing but also have an aptitude for, Dr. Schleifer said, parents can draw conclusions about what their children’s interests and potential passions are.

“If a child is interested in Minecraft and they have an aptitude for it, then that could show some real potential for real-world application architecture or engineering or something along those lines,” explained Dr. Schleifer.

If a child enjoys playing games with more violence and mature content, like Call of Duty, said Dr. Schleifer, it can be a warning sign of a child’s possible underlying anxieties, which a parent can address.

“Video Games: Creating a Family Plan” is co-sponsored by Wilton Youth Council’s Parent Connection, Wilton Library and United Way of Coastal Fairfield County.

The snow date is Feb. 26.

Registration: 203-762-3950.