My Parents Aren’t Noobs is a book co-authored with Anthea Helps. The book is simply yet beautifully illustrated by Jay Dixon — a local Guelph high school student. This heartfelt story for children (age 5-8) and parents highlights the importance of technology (video games) with today’s generation of youth.
Throughout the book, there are chat bubbles that provide important information for children and parents about key elements in navigating video games and promoting healthy habits (communication, limit setting, game ratings and balance/variety). The hope is that this story will inspire ongoing family discussions that will provide information that will assist families in managing technology at home.
The inspiration behind the book comes from my experience in raising a son who enjoys gaming, observing my son’s friends, becoming educated, and my work with gamers and their families at Homewood Health Centre.
When my son Noah was 5, he drew this elaborate picture of himself playing a video game with his friend Hunter. At the time, our family had never been exposed to video games nor did we have any gaming devices. Noah had never played games at our house or anyone else’s house for that matter. So imagine my surprise when he showed up with this detailed depiction of video gaming. Shortly after this picture, he asked if he could get a Nintendo DS and added it to his Christmas wish list.
As parents, we didn`t even know what a DS was. One day I was shopping and looked at this handheld gaming device. I overheard a conversation between a mom and her three kids — two boys and a girl between the ages of 7 and 11. I listened intently to this very challenging exchange between a mother and her children.
The older boy wanted Grand Theft Auto (GTA) which is rated by the Entertainment Software Rating Board as Mature (17+). He insisted that his mom buy it for him. His mom explained that it wasn`t an appropriate game for his age due to the content. It was painfully grueling to listen to the mom trying to explain all the reasons why she wasn`t going to purchase GTA.
I was impressed with the mom and even more impressed with the store clerk who overheard the conversation and intervened. The clerk explained to the mom and her children that he wasn`t permitted to sell GTA to her child due to the store`s policy and adherence to the ESRB’s rating system.
After witnessing this conversation, I called my husband at work and we were trying to weigh out the pros and cons of bringing this device into our home. I had witnessed the tension and challenges that we as a family could face and I was scared. We did make a joint decision to purchase a DS but we were very clear that we needed to be proactive and monitor this issue closely.
For the last 8 years, I’ve become increasing concerned about the role of technology in all of our lives. I’ve especially seen the heartache and pain when video games are rogue in families. At that point, it becomes more challenging to go back to the basics and try to promote healthy limits, adhere to rating systems, practice quality communication, promote balance and variety, and carve out time in busy lives for family connectivity opportunities. Through my personal and professional experiences, I encourage families to set up family device guidelines as soon as a device enters the home because once the child reaches adolescence it is more challenging to implement healthy limits.
This myriad of experiences has led to my personal interest and passion to learn about technology and to help others navigate “all things digital.” My Parents Aren’t Noobs is my attempt at providing information from a prevention standpoint.
Although Noah uses a lot of technology, we try to balance this with the following family guidelines:
1) No devices in the bedroom when it is time for bed. Technology in bedrooms can interfere with sleep and cause sleep disturbances. Sleep is integral to our physical and mental health. We all charge our phones in one room at a charging station.
2) Keep gaming devices in a common area. Our gaming devices (console and PC) are in the living room. Although this can be annoying for all of us, it keeps us in the loop with what is going on in the gaming culture and within Noah’s circle of friends. We can observe online interactions and have the unique opportunity to observe Noah’s communication, problem solving, teamwork, compassion, leadership and assertiveness in action. It is actually really neat to get to know my son by observing his interactions.
3) Be a gatekeeper. Nothing gets purchased unless he runs it by me or my husband first. If it is a game, I research it through the ESRB and Common Sense Media which helps us make decisions as family as to what games when.
4) No technology at the dinner table. This is a sacred time to connect.
5) Explore creative opportunities to connect as a family. As a family, we enjoy the following activities: visiting The Roundtable, escape rooms, attending volleyball games, concerts, plays, magic shows, festivals, archery, juggling, spinning plates, karaoke, games, animals, Nerf battles, and other local events. Family fun is the best!
6) Learn as much as you can about technology. This is where the title of the book comes from. Prior to Noah getting a device, we as parents were noobs. A noob, also known as a newbie, is someone who is very inexperienced. Commonly new players are labelled as “noobs.” It is also a slang term for someone who has experience in a game but isn’t very good. In that context, it is sort of an insult, more or less just a joke.
Today, I know a lot of the jargon and can engage in teamspeak from a distance despite Noah becoming very annoyed and embarrassed at times. In the book, Anthea and I suggest to learn about the gaming culture.
7) Homework and household chores before gaming. Establish priorities. Gaming is the dessert after the meal.
8) Take breaks. Get outside and connect to nature. Get involved in activities that promote physical exercise. 9) Pursue other activities and aim for a balanced leisure lifestyle. Noah is an accomplished juggler and has many special and unique interests like magic, drama, archery, volleyball, board games, animals, Guelph Humane Society, and music. He has even rewritten a children`s version of Peter Watson`s book Angel Has Her Wings.
10) Ongoing and open communication is a must.
11) Learn some of the slang terms used in games. For example: “KS” – kill steal, “AFK” – away from key-board, “GG” – good game. The list goes on but those are a few. Knowing these terms will help you connect with your child.
12) Most importantly… enjoy and have fun with a balanced use of technology!
To promote balanced use of technology, my latest initiative is to develop a Balanced Technology Management Committee in our local community. This committee will bring together representatives from a variety of organizations that are interested in child health and well-being. The committee’s focus will be to explore and create initiatives to ensure that children receive a balance between activities that promote optimal development with technology use. The sustainability of our children is essential to our future!
You Are Not Alone: stories of hope, by Lisa Browning