By Jill Yarberry-Laybourn
This world couldn’t run without technology. Our lives are filled with video games, apps, and online resources. Odds are that as a parent (and human), you benefit, utilize, and most likely love your devices and technology as well. As much as you and your child rely on technology and games, you might feel a bit anxious about your child’s growing interest in playing online video games or spending hours immersed in technology. If your child has expressed a desire to join an esports team or dreams of being a professional gamer, you might be fretting even more. Fortunately, with the right information and a concerted effort towards balance, there is no need to worry; your child’s interests and passions for digital competition don’t have to be negative!
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Parents guide to wellness and esports
This guide was created with the expertise of two esports pioneers at Shenandoah University, Dr. Joey Gawrysiak-Esports Program Director/Esports Curriculum Director, and Christopher Scroggins-Esports Instructor/Esports Curriculum Developer. BYJU’S FutureSchool spoke to the pair in a July 2021 interview in order to give you the tools needed to support and encourage your child’s interests while maintaining balance and wellness. It is, in effect, a guide to help you be an awesome esports parent to your extremely awesome gamer (or coder, or everything in between).
What is esports? Esports are multiplayer video game competitions that can be viewed by spectators; video games are played competitively by high school and college participants and teams. Esports teams are available in city and regional leagues for all ages. There are tournaments for amateur and professional gamers.
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Educate yourself on esports gaming
You are reading this article; that is a great first step to being an even more awesome parent! Many parents disengage when it comes to gaming and technology. Dr. Gawrysiak explains, “We see parents who are like ‘we don’t know what esports is, so just talk to them (the child) about the program.” Dr. Gawrysiak explains it is important for parents to try. “We have parents who are like, we know what they are doing. We love what they are doing and support them… These parents are setting their child up for a much quicker path to understanding the power and benefits of esports than those who don’t know and don’t take an interest.”
Educate your adolescent about esports gaming advantages
Educating your child is equally beneficial, not just about digital citizenship and healthy gaming habits (which we will discuss later) but that esports can be a great avenue for a rewarding career. “There is sports production, management, hospitality, tourism–all of these different avenues they can go down while utilizing and taking advantage of their passion,” explains Chris Scroggins. This might not interest younger competitors, but it could be very enlightening for a 17 or 18-year-old who loves video games and is exploring career paths.
[Read: Esports Guide for Parents]
Set healthy esports and gaming parameters
You have most likely set a time limit on gaming, which is extremely important. “Like everything, moderation,” explains Dr. Gawrysiak. “Just as parents of adolescents who play traditional sports or who are obsessed with their studies, all things need to have balance and moderation.” Of course, your child may have tried to convince you that to become a professional gamer, they need to play for hours on end, but that’s not necessarily true.
“Gaming 8 hours a day is not going to make you better. You have to practice with intentionality (a focus on specific skills and techniques),” adds Scroggins.
Scroggins and Gawrysiak agree that quantity and quality are very different. The varsity esports competitors at Shenandoah University formally practice around six hours a week. “Gaming eight hours a day is not going to make you better. You have to practice with intentionality,” adds Scroggins. Gawrysiak brings those parameters home to his family and takes a hardline with his own children. “I have two young girls,” he says. “They get 15 minutes a day. When their friends hear that, they think that is pretty harsh.”
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Show interest in your child’s esports play
Understanding your child’s passions and interests will go a long way in forging a strong bond with your child. One way to show interest in their gaming and build connections simultaneously is by asking questions. For example:
· Which games do you like the best?
· What do you like about it?
· How do you feel when you play?
· How do you play?
· What are the different modes you can play in?
· Do your friends play?
· What happened in your game today?
· Who are you playing with?
Did you get better at ______________?
· What are you going to work on tomorrow?
· What do you think you need to work on to advance to the next level?
· Is there anything I can do to help you?
Know what esports games your child is playing
By asking questions and controlling internet access, you are already an awesome parent, but it is also important to know the ins and outs of each game your child loves to play. Each video game has a rating given to it by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB). (It’s a pretty cool site, so check it out.) The “E” ranking stands for everyone. The rating board uses criteria like humor, violence (fantasy, intense), blood/gore, and language, among others to determine each game’s rating. While the ratings and the ESRB summaries give parents a great guideline, they aren’t a substitute for your parental judgment.
Play video games with them
An awesome parent has to play the game with their child. The child may not want a parent to play all the time or very often (and as a parent, you may not want to play all the time), but most adolescents love sharing what they are passionate about. And frankly, if they shy away from having you play with them, then it may be a red flag. After some investigation, you may find that it isn’t the kind of game you would want your adolescent playing or playing with people online that wouldn’t meet your approval.
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Esports gaming and digital citizenship
Many awesome parents worry about the time their adolescent spends online, especially when they are playing video games with a stranger in online competitions like Fortnite, Overwatch, League of Legends, and many others. Rather than eliminating technology or digital interests, Gawrysiak and Scroggins believe that playing video games “provides the perfect opportunity to discuss the importance of digital citizenship.”
Here are some good internet rules to follow and discuss with your child:
Be kind: Discuss what being kind online means. If they are old enough to talk to others, what do that look and sound like? Discuss the fact that it can be easier for all individuals online to be more harsh and forthright because the other person isn’t sitting in front of them. Remind your children that there is a “human being” with feelings and emotions on the other end of the imaginary digital battlefield, so be sensitive to that. Parents can advise children to follow this golden rule, “if you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, it’s best not to say it online.”
Be private: Remind adolescents never to discuss their location. Tell them if people ask, give them a state but nothing closer to home than that. And if they keep asking, stop playing with them immediately. They also shouldn’t discuss their activities or places they visit near their home as that can give away their location. Parents, you can do some role-playing where you act like a person with bad intentions trying to get your child’s information. Remind them that the person they are playing against may sound like a child, but in reality, they could be an adult.
Be an online advocate: Teach your child to recognize bullying and to report it. They should also leave the game when and if they experience bullying. Likewise, it’s important to teach adolescents to stand up/advocate for individuals who are being teased and bullied.
Be responsible: Many of the games online have in-game purchases that can add up quickly. One way to keep from receiving a monstrous bill in the mail is to make sure to set up security measures with purchases. Also, have clear expectations about if and when your adolescent can use their own money to make in-game purchases.
Support their esports gaming aspirations by setting goals
Be open, supportive, and helpful when your child expresses a desire to play video games competitively. Scroggin advises setting goals with your tweens and teens, “…structure it in a way that allows them to create short term goals. You are investing in them and saying, ‘to be a pro, you are going to have to be a Super Sonic Legend which is the highest-ranking (see next paragraph), but right now you are bronze. Let’s set a goal to be silver in three months.” By setting goals, your child will see their progress, and they can also get a general sense of how hard they will have to work to compete at the highest competitive levels.
Competitive esports gaming requires high rankings
A lot of video games, but especially the games used in esports competitions, have rankings. The rankings help players see where they stand compared to other players in the game. Here is an example of the leveling system that exists for a popular esports video game called Rocket League:
Bronze (1, 2, 3 levels)
Silver (1, 2, 3 levels)
Gold (1, 2, 3 levels)
Platinum (1, 2, 3 levels)
Diamond (1, 2, 3 levels)
Champion (1, 2, 3 levels)
Grand Champion (1, 2, 3 levels)
College scholarships for esports players
According to Gawrysiak and Scroggins, there are thousands of dollars and a vast number of esports scholarships that your teen could apply for if they are moving up the ranks. “The higher the rank, the better scholarship… just like a quarterback… you need to progress through that track. Rather than long hours of practice,” Scroggins adds. “You have to consistently practice to stay at that level and improve.”
Practicing esports gaming with intent
If you are a parent who has heard your child whine about needing more screen time to get better, you can quote the esports experts Gawrysiak and Scroggins, “more time doesn’t lead to better play. Intentional practice is the key.” Scroggins adds, “Gaming eight hours a day is not going to make you better. You have to practice with intention. Be purposeful and deliberate.” Gamers need to break down the large-scale objectives (like being the last person standing) and then the smaller skills (surviving evil fairies arrows) to determine what skills they need to practice and how they can obtain that skill. Gawrysiak agrees, “It’s like basketball. You might spend an hour working hard on your free throws.”
Gaming that includes the dimensions of wellness are important
Gaming, especially on a competitive level, can be physically and psychologically exhausting. Making sure your child stays balanced in all areas of wellness is as essential for a gamer as it is for a baseball player or an academic quiz champion. At Shenandoah University, the esports team takes all these “dimensions of wellness” very seriously, and each competitor has to train in ways that are very similar to other college athletes while getting educated on the following:
- Intellectual wellness: reading about ways to stay healthy, staying on top of your schoolwork
- Mental wellness: learning coping strategies for stress and losing, having someone to talk to when you are down, getting the amount of sleep your brain needs
- Financial wellness: learning to make responsible choices with your money, a balanced approach to making and spending money
- Environmental wellness: making sure your physical environment is healthy, building a community of friends, recycling, being aware of your surroundings and potential dangers
- And of course, Physical wellness: including drinking enough water, monitoring caffeine (if any), core strength, endurance, getting the amount of sleep your body needs, stretching, and warming up for gameplay
[Read: Benefits of Esports]
Both Gawrysiak and Scroggins also believe in the power of taking walks. Gawrysiak emphasizes, “Gaming can be stressful, and sometimes the best way to destress, especially when you aren’t playing well or losing, is to take a walk!”
Gawrysiak recommends the 20-20-20 rule for gamers, and we might as well add coders, programmers, online students, anyone who is using a computer for long periods. “Every 20 minutes, look at a spot 20 feet away for 20 seconds.”
Being an awesome parent isn’t likely hard for you, but it can feel like a challenge for many, even the best of us. The bottom line is staying informed of your child’s interests, communicating and connecting, while helping guide them towards responsibility and balance are really the keys to being a great parent regardless of the activity. And, esports, which can be as beneficial as traditional sports[JL4}, might be the perfect outlet for your child. Now that you know how to be an even more awesome parent of an equally awesome gamer, you can rest easy, or better yet, get off your device, grab a remote or a keyboard, and go play with your kid.
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Video game creation
If your child already loves video games, why not foster a love of creation along with a love of play. Today, at Whitehat Jr and BYJU’S FutureSchool, children across the globe are creating code and artificial intelligence (AI) with 1:1 or small group instruction by highly trained instructors. Sign them up for a FREE trial class today.
See BYJU’S FutureSchool additional articles about esports and coding:
About the contributors
This parent’s guide was created with the research, experiences, and insight of esports[JL2] experts Dr. Joey Gawrysiak Esports Program Director/Esports Curriculum Director and Christopher Scroggins Esports Instructor/Esports Curriculum Developer at Shenandoah University.
About the author
A writer, teacher, and most importantly, a mom, Jill loves to research and write about important topics and provide opportunities for growth for herself and her readers. A journalist at heart, she greatly enjoys interviewing and learning from others and sharing it with an audience. She is an avid nature-lover and spends as much time outdoors as possible trail-riding, paddle-boarding, hiking, and taking photos along the way.