Video games are a huge industry with about 3.09 billion active players worldwide, with 618 million players under 18 years old. Esports have, in turn, increased in popularity and become a more viable future professional opportunity for children. You might be one of many parents struggling to find ways to support their child’s gaming hobby, not for lack of trying but for lack of understanding the different ways to connect with your child and their hobby.
We recommend building a trusting relationship with your child to best support their gaming hobby. That will make it more likely for your child to open up about their gaming experiences and aspirations, including their desire to get involved in esports. The quality of your relationship with your child can significantly affect how well you can assist them if they are struggling or want to learn more about their hobby.
Esports youth programs are a great way to allow kids to continue gaming in a more controlled and educational environment, allowing for more growth and learnings from their gaming sessions. This can be important as video games are a good way to help children develop problem-solving skills, cognitive skills, and social skills, promote relaxation, and reduce anxiety. Gaming can also help children build emotional resilience by learning to cope with losing in a video game and improve their capacity to think in three-dimensional ways. A big part of why children play online video games is to socialize. In today´s digital world, video games have become a central place for children to meet, talk, and play together. They can connect with their current friends, make new friends, release stress, and have fun.
Here are a few ways we at the Esports Coaching Academy (ECA) believe can help you support your child´s gaming passion:
Get to know the gaming language.
We hear lots of parents say that they do not understand what their child is saying when they are playing video games. To better connect with your child, familiarity with common gaming terminology is very beneficial, it can help you better understand what is happening in the games and what is being communicated.
Here is a short list of common gaming terms:
K/D ratio - A player's ratio of in-game 'kills' to 'deaths.' Common to multiplayer shooters, the K/D ratio is generally considered a measure of overall performance.
NPC - An acronym for 'non-player character,' an NPC is any non-combative character within a game that a player might encounter. It is often possible to interact with these characters, purchase goods, or engage in conversation.
Noob - Often stylized as 'n00b', 'newb' or 'newbie,' 'noob' is a shorthand for 'newcomer' and is often used as a derogatory term to mock inexperienced players, often in a multiplayer setting.
OP - A shorthand for 'overpowered,' 'OP' refers to particular in-game abilities, weapons, or playstyles considerably more effective than others. It may also refer to a player far more powerful than the enemies they're up against.
Skins - A purely cosmetic variant of a player character, item, weapon, or NPC - often as rewards or unlocks.
Ganking - A portmanteau of 'Gang' and 'Kill,' a 'Gank' refers to any in-game death caused by a group of assailants. See also: 'Mobs'
GG - An acronym for 'good game' - a straightforward congratulation between players.
For a more comprehensive understanding of gaming terminology, you can read the ultimate list of popular gaming-related terms compiled by PlayStation.
Be curious and ask questions.
To support your child´s gaming habits better, showing visible and genuine interest is the way to go. You can do this by asking them questions about the game they are playing, which can help guide them down a path of self-reflection. Here are examples of questions you can ask:
What is your favorite game, and why?
I noticed you seem to be having some trouble while gaming. How are you feeling?
I noticed you are acting excited. Did your game go well?
What was your favorite thing about this match?
Did you learn something new during this gaming session?
Did you have a fun time?
Many parents neglect to acknowledge that their child really likes and is passionate about gaming. Parents tend to view video games negatively, which can make their children feel like they are being judged and misunderstood. Video games are often called a waste of time or unhealthy, which does not bode well in the eyes of children playing games. You should refrain from using similar comments as they can backfire and have the opposite intended effect. What you should rather do is support and encourage your child. Focusing on your child´s strengths while playing their favorite game can be beneficial. An example of a strength your child could have would be their ability to help their friend get to a new level or lead their team to victory. If you can pinpoint those strengths, you can help your child connect them to real-life situations, benefiting them even further in the future. You could also reward your child for responsible behavior, such as looser time limits on their screen time when they become disciplined around the amount of time they spend playing.
Discuss and share the emotions of video games.
It is understandable to worry about your child. Especially regarding video games. A parent only wants what is best for their child. A child playing video games alone, in their room, yelling, cursing, and being moody all the time does not set a good precedent. A display of that behavior naturally elicits a negative response from parents, who are less likely to want to support their children’s chosen activity. Therefore, it is important to encourage open and honest communication and discuss your worries with your child.
We, as humans, all have basic emotions. If we have a goal, we set our minds to it and strive to achieve it. If we fail or someone gets in the way of us achieving that goal, no matter the size of the goal, we can all relate to how frustrated and angry we can become. To put this frustration or anger into perspective, an example is if you are switching car lanes and someone blocks you, or you are trying to kick around a ball, and someone tackles you. This kind of intervention would frustrate or anger most people, leading them to possibly lash out e.g., road rage.
We witness all ranges of emotions in every sport. In most physical sports, we often refer to certain emotions like rage or frustration as competitiveness or passion. However, you might view these same emotions as a problem regarding esports. You should be more open-minded when tackling these emotions while your child is gaming. You should openly discuss your child´s feelings to help them better understand how to act in certain game situations instead of scolding or discouraging them. Children who game often believe that if they lose a game or a duel against another team or player, they are bad, but if they win, they are the best. Win or lose, this mindset can seriously affect a child´s self-image.
Watch them play.
After asking your child questions about the game they most frequently play and showing interest, the perfect next step would be to put that interest into action and watch them play. Watching your child play their favorite game, for example, Fortnite, allows you to understand their gaming habits better and gives you a better foundation to strengthen your connection and trust with them. Watching them play further strengthens the relationship with your child and enables them to share more with you as you are showing them interest and acknowledging their passion.
Play with them.
After becoming familiar with your child´s gaming language and having a good foundation of their favorite games, it is extremely beneficial to put that foundation into further action and play their favorite game with them. By playing their favorite games, whether on the PC or video game console, you are learning more and connecting with them on a much deeper level.
Attend a tournament or watch an event or videos with them.
Once you understand the games your child likes to play, a great bonding experience would be to do something active with them. An example would be attending a virtual or in-person event such as a League of Legends or Fortnite tournament. You can watch a video like 'How To MASTER Fortnite Editing' with them that covers something educational relating to their favorite games, an online streamer like Ninja, who mainly plays Fortnite, or a content creator like Dream, who mainly plays Minecraft. A activities like these further cements your child´s trust in you and provides them with a safer environment to play video games as they sense your support and encouragement.
Familiarize yourself with online safety.
Online safety is an important topic in video games. You should be aware of the dangers of online gaming, especially regarding toxic behavior and sharing personal information.
Many gaming developers often provide safety features for children under a certain age. Epic Games, for example, offers Cabined Accounts, which are player accounts that provide a tailored experience for players under the age of 13 or their country´s age of digital consent. These accounts require a parent or guardian´s email to have access to certain features. This will not impact a player´s ability to play the games but more specific content or features. You can even get regular email updates that provide insight into your child´s gaming behavior within the developer´s game. Online safety should be leveraged to create a positive gaming experience. Your first thought might be to protect your child by removing them from gaming, which is not the way to go. This can negatively impact your relationship with your child. Rather, involving and familiarizing them with online safety discussions gives them the confidence to adhere to certain restrictions and confide in you if concerning situations arise.
Sign your child up for an esports program.
Esports programs such as boot camps or academies provide children with the structure they need to learn in an environment where an experienced and educated coach facilitates learning. Enrolling your child in such a program gives them an outlet where they can improve their gaming skills and grow as individuals.
We at the ECA work with individuals and organizations, such as NewMeta in the UK and GoGaming in the Netherlands, who have youth esports programs. We provide their coaches with coaching certification, and the organization with the tools, and the resources needed to run their esports programs and academies. The children who attend their programs are taught by ECA-certified coaches and develop into well-rounded individuals who learn about communication, the importance of physical exercise and nutrition, how to conduct themselves, not swear, respect teammates and opponents, and much more.
It is important that children feel supported in any of their hobbies, and the quality of your relationship with your child can greatly impact their gaming behavior and habits. You can empower your child to make responsible decisions by having honest, informative, and educational conversations about video games and esports. It is never too early or late to start supporting your child´s gaming passion.