“Dude, you’re so sus!” my son shouts into my phone.
“Sus” is short for suspicious, and it’s a word he’s started using all the time since he discovered Among Us. For those unfamiliar, Among Us is a new game. The characters look like pants wearing ski goggles, and one of the players is assigned to be the bad guy and everyone else needs to figure out who it is. James has spent at least an hour a day for the past week playing the game and shouting strategies at his school friend (do 6 year old boys have indoor voices??).
I’m not going to claim that we haven’t had plenty of screen time since Covid started; we have, but I resisted a lot of video game play. I came of age as politicians were blaming video games for Columbine, and I stopped playing video games myself in high school. If it came after Mario Brothers III, I don’t know much about it. Not knowing much about 21st century games, I didn’t want my kids involved in them, especially after reading that gaming can cause all kinds of social/emotional issues.
When quarantine began, I continued resisting. We’re coming up on a year, though. It’s been a long year. My son has lost a lot of play time with his peers. We’ve quarantined with my neighbor, so my 9 year old daughter has gotten lots of socialization with their daughter, and the girls often play with my son. James is a very “typical” boy, though– lots of yelling, tons of silliness, the occasional potty word. He has not gotten to indulge those activities very often in the past year, and he hasn’t gotten to practice those skills, like boundaries and appropriate humor, that other boys could help him refine.
Here’s where Among Us (and Minecraft and Roblox) have come into our house, and lots of others. According to Pew Research, 34 percent of boys play games online daily or nearly daily. At our house, my son’s buddy will Facetime him on my phone, and they’ll play together. Again, there’s lots of yelling. Oh, the yelling. The good news is, I can monitor their interactions from anywhere in my house. The other good news is, he’s practicing lots of the things that I feel like he’s been missing. The boys decide what information they want to share with each other. They talk it out when they don’t agree on that. They work together to figure out who the bad guy is each round. They come to an agreement about what games to play.
My observations about the benefits of video games for boys is being supported by research now, too. A large study out of the UK reports that boys who game regularly are less likely to report symptoms of depression than boys who don’t game often. Understood.org has also found that video games enhance children’s social connections, problem solving, and imaginative play. When there are fewer opportunities for this growth, this research is especially informative.
So many of the skills that I worried he was missing he is practicing with his buddy, so I’m officially over my aversion to video games. Playing them with a friend is helping him to grow as a person. Now if they could just help him with volume modulation….