Catching them young?
The latest iMinds digiMeter report found that 32.5% of Flemish families have a fixed or mobile game console at home. Also, the number of tablets is increasing (55.8% of Flemish families have access to at least one tablet). In this way games are becoming increasingly accessible, also for small children.
“However – even on an international level – there is a lack of thorough research into the gaming habits of young children,” says Trees De Bruyne, project leader of Wanagogo. “That's why we found the research from MICT during the development of Wanagogo so interesting.”
From the research results it appears that 82% of children aged between 3 and 10 years play digital games at least once a week. Of the three-year-olds, 24% play every day and 14% never. The percentage of children playing digital games everyday increases as they get older, reaching a rate of 63% among ten-year-olds.
On average children play for around 40 minutes a day with playtime increasing as they get older – from 21 minutes a day for the youngest children to 74 minutes a day for the oldest. Furthermore boys play on average for longer than girls, as do children from less educated and from big families.
Good guidance in gaming
What parents do to manage their children's gaming is called mediating. Parents can set rules regarding the content of games and the length of play. They can also discuss and evaluate the content of games with their children, or just play together with them, giving support and advice.
“Research shows that parents are mainly concerned with the type of games their children play and whether these are suitable or not,” explains Professor Jan Van Looy from iMinds - MICT - Ghent University. “Active discussion about games occurs far less. The results also show that parents with a lower level of education play games together with their child more often than those with a higher level of education."
When children's gaming behaviors are guided with rules or by their parents’ active participation, fewer problems are experienced. Furthermore the manner how guidance is given is also very important. Punishing a child for playing a game that is banned is less effective than explaining the reason why the game is banned. The research results certainly indicate that a controlling style is associated with a higher chance of problematic gaming behavior and rebellion against the rules. Also parents who create gaming rules in a supportive way ensure that their children remain more interested in interaction with other children, such as playing outside.
Parents appreciate the educational aspect of games most of all
Contrary to some reports, parents appear to find games harmless and useful as a whole.
“This study showed that parents appreciate the educational aspect most of all,” states Trees De Bruyne. “This input from the study was certainly taken into account when developing Wanagogo. Through WanagogoBoss, the parent app, parents can monitor their children’s progress in the 3D world, and discover which skills they have been developing.”
“Parents with a negative opinion about games are more likely to act in a controlling way. And this is exactly what creates a negative effect. Parents who are more positive and have a more balanced view of games tend to adopt a more supportive style. In this way they can give their children better guidance when playing digital games,” concludes Professor Van Looy.
This research was carried out within the iMinds Media RAGASI project. The RAGASI partners studied how the quality of online 3D gaming environments for children could be guaranteed and improved; this included considerable focus on gaming behavior and parental control.
iMinds – the digital research center of Flanders, Belgium – combines the strength of its 850+ researchers at five Flemish universities to conduct strategic and applied research in areas such as ICT, Media and Health. Together with its research partners (companies, governments and non-profit organizations), iMinds translates digital know-how into concrete products and services. In addition, iMinds supports researchers, young entrepreneurs and start-ups in the successful market introduction of their ideas. More info at www.iminds.be (Twitter: @iMinds).
iMinds’ research group for Media & ICT (MICT) is part of the Department of Communication Studies at Ghent University, Belgium. The context and focus of MICT’s research is today’s digital society and economy, in particular the changes and challenges that all related stakeholders (industry, policy makers and end-users) are facing. Relying on a team of 30+ experts in new media and communication, we stay in touch with end-users’ expectations, experience, use patterns and habits.