Guardians involved in games of the young people

  • Youth Work
  • Teaching and instruction
10.8.2022 6.01
Young person is playing with the computer
Photo: Taru Turpeinen

More and more young people are interested in playing on the computer, but more and more parents or guardians are feeling left behind.

Many guardians have questions in their minds:

Should my child be directed to better hobbies, such as playing football? Are they completely isolated from other young people when they spends hours at the games?

The answer for gaming professionals to questions from concerned parents is simple: no!

The young person can also play in a guided group

There are many types of gaming. A young person can play at home on a computer alone, with other young people remotely or in a remote controlled group, on a youth centre with other young people, at various events or the most ambitious progress to compete as e-athletes.

“The most popular way is to play alone, because the threshold for playing games is so low and you don’t need any guidance to start the game,” says Kimmo Leinonen, an e-sports designer in the city of Espoo.

Most of the gaming is completely entertaining and is done because it’s fun.

Experts often use two different terms: gaming and guided gaming.

“Currently, 95 percent of gaming is non-guided activities,” Leinonen continues.

But what is guided gaming?

In the guided activity, the instructor manages the game situation and the group, Leinonen explains.

“The sizes of the groups are often determined by the game being played, but I would say the overall size is five to ten people,” he says.

The guided gaming takes place online or in gaming facility. If the guided gaming is held online, everyone will participate in the game remotely from home and the instructor will be in remote contact with the players. The gaming facility, such as Youth Centre, has computers readily available and the young people gather there. In the guided gaming done at gaming facility, the gaming club instructor arrives on the scene.

It is also possible that in the guided gaming, some players are at the gaming facility and some are at home.

“The instructor is often a person familiar with the gaming industry. The instructor’s task is to guarantee a controlled and secure hobby environment,” says Leinonen.

Playing at youth centres and libraries is free

Modern play equipment can be very expensive, but playing at the youth centre in youth evenings and clubs in Espoo, including guided gaming in clubs, is free. Youth gaming events, LANs, are also free.

Espoo Youth Services have gaming facilities in Matinkylä, Karakallio and Soukka. Other youth centres have individual game consoles. There are game consoles in every youth centre.

The young person can also take part in guided gaming, organised by the youth centre, from their home computer.

In guided gaming at youth centres, the instructor is usually a youth instructor who is on site at the youth centre.

Youth instructor Aija-Maarit Kähärä from Karakallio Youth Centre says that the youth services also organises gaming camps during the summer. Summer camps are subject to a fee, but you can apply for a fee waiver.

Kähärä emphasises that the age limits of the games are monitored and controlled in the youth centres, which means the young people play the games allowed by the age limits.

Playing at Espoo libraries is also free.

The area libraries of Sello, Iso Omena, Tapiola, Lippulaiva and Entresse have a varied selection of game consoles for children and young people, and there are also consoles in many nearby libraries. Gaming activities are subject to age limits.

In the libraries, young people’s gaming activities are organised by library staff who specialise in the work of children and young people, from whom the library’s gaming shifts are booked.

“They provide help and guidance in starting gaming, using the equipment and, if possible, they can also join in the gaming,” says Petri Saarela, Customer Service Manager.

Libraries also hold regular gaming events and tournaments.

What would be a suitable game for the young person?

Many parents are wondering what would be the most appropriate game for a 9- or 13-year-old. There is a huge selection to choose from.

“It’s worth playing the games that a young person likes. It’s important to remember the age limits and in the case of minors, the responsibility is, of course, with the parents,” Leinonen says.

“If a young person has an interest in a particular game, it’s worth checking with their parents to see if there's a gaming club nearby or online for that specific game.”

Parents involved in one way or another

Postdoctoral researcher and game educator Mikko Meriläinen from the University of Tampere advises to involve parents in gaming. According to him, it’s not enough for a parent to drop their child into a game club and pick up after an hour.

Parents also need advice on game education, or at least they could get to know the games that young people play.

Gaming itself is a hobby just like traditional sports, music and art. It is good that the parent is interested in why the young person is gaming, how he or she is gaming, and with whom. Gaming can also be an opportunity for a parent and child to do it together, Leinonen says.

It is important that young people’s skills are identified.

“It is often forgotten that gaming requires a great deal of skill,” says Meriläinen.

Parents should pay attention to the tone in which they talk about gaming at home. Gaming often creates tension in families. This is why it’s important to frame your speech properly. Instead of saying that a young person plays a lot because “the game is addictive”, it could be expressed as “a young person is determined and motivated”.

“Gaming is valuable in itself, as is being able to read or have knowledge about movies,” Meriläinen concludes.

Harassment can be prevented

Some caregivers are wondering how they can make sure there is no harassment or hate speech while gaming.

“If the harassment meets the criteria for a crime, then of course the police are the right point of contact. Different games have different mechanisms to prevent or deter harassment or bad behaviour. For example, other players can be muted, in which case they will not be heard. Games also generally have a reporting feature that can be used to report an annoying player to the game owner,” Leinonen replies.

Leinonen advices that if a parent notices that a child is behaving differently or is somehow different, it is a good idea to talk about whether something has happened and help the child deal with the situation. 

If gaming controls life too much?

Whether it is gaming or other activities, decreased functional capacity is a good indicator of identifying harmful behaviour. For example, if an adolescent does not follow previous daily routines of eating, sleeping, hanging out with friends, is late for school, doesn't participate in nice things, and prefers to play alone instead of going out with friends, it may be worth looking at whether the adolescent is hooked on gaming.

Service Manager Saara Sandelius from the City of Espoo’s Welfare and Health Department states that it is the guardian’s responsibility to ensure that a child sleeps adequately, eats a wide variety of foods and attends school or studies.

“Good ways to reduce or limit gaming are realistically agreed rules that are made when both parties are in a receiving state and there is no dispute about gaming before the situation where the rules are agreed on. It’s important that the rules are made together with the adolescent, but the final boundaries are always set by the guardian,” Sandelius says.

The agreeing can be started by thinking about when the equipment will be turned off in the evenings to ensure a good night’s sleep and when to eat meals together. And what do the guardians and the adolescent’s close circle offer in return when the young person reduces the amount of gaming?

If the rules can't be drawn up and followed, you can discuss them in a quiet place with experts.

“In many cases, the challenges of setting boundaries for gaming stem from the challenges of setting boundaries of any kind. In other words, parents of the adolescent may need support to receive negative emotional reactions. In that case I would recommend guardians to go to the Espoo Family Counselling Centre where you can get tips for these situations. If you want to take the adolescent with you, I recommend booking a time at the Espoo Youth Shelter, which offers resource-focused family meetings, guardian’s own meetings, individual visits for adolescents if necessary, and a sleep school to correct sleep patterns.”

If the family wants the support to come home, they can also contact Espoo’s Family Social Work, through which they can receive support in difficult conflict situations. If the adolescent’s speech or behaviour is aggressive, you can contact Non Figthting Generation link) project, which offers either individual appointments or group support. If the adolescent has challenges in moods, they can talk to a school or college nurse or apply to Nupoli.

Some young people are aiming to the top of e-sports

Some of the young players are growing up as e-athletes and participating in international competitions. E-sports means competing in video games, which makes training more professional and more serious. In e-sports, the activity shifts to technical training and the improvement of one’s own areas.

In this case, it’s important that the young person playing moves and sleeps adequately, as many of the players have reported suffering from back and neck pain.

Gaming only makes a living for about 20–40 e-athletes in Finland, so it’s important for young people to know the realities of e-sports. The career can end at a very young age.

“There is no specific age, but e-sports has seen a career break at the age of 24, but on the other hand, there are also professionals over the age of 40,” Leinonen says.

Some tips from Kimmo Leinonen on guided gaming activities:

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  • Basic Education
  • Youth Services