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Is Your Kid a Gamer? 5 Things Not to Do: Drew Dixon

with Drew Dixon | November 17, 2023
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Navigating the video game world as a parent can be confusing. Expert Drew Dixon starts with five clear ideas of classic parenting mistakes around gaming.

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Navigating the video game world as a parent can be confusing. Expert Drew Dixon starts with five clear ideas of classic parenting mistakes around gaming.

Is Your Kid a Gamer? 5 Things Not to Do: Drew Dixon

With Drew Dixon
|
November 17, 2023
| Download Transcript PDF

Drew: Don't be ignorant about what your kids are up to. Don't be ignorant about the world of video games. Don't be ignorant about anything that they're spending time on. Get online. Watch some videos on YouTube or Twitch of people playing whatever game it is your kids want to play before you let them play it. Learn how to set up parental controls, but don't assume that just because you put some parental controls on their devices that everything's fine.

Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife Todaywhere we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Shelby Abbott and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com.

Dave: This is FamilyLife Today!

 

Dave: Are you excited about today?

Ann: I am excited!

Dave: We have our Friday Five Show where we get five things, five issues, or whatever. We've got Drew Dixon back, and he's our resident video game expert.

Drew: Nerd. Yes, sure.

Dave: Nerd! He—

Drew: —yes, I love it.

Dave: You're a video game—

Drew: —yes. Call me “nerd.”

Ann: Okay.

Dave: Yes, I mean you wrote the book Know Thy Gamer: A Parent’s Guide to Video Games, which is so helpful. We've had a couple of days talking about that.

Drew: Yes.

Dave: But here's what we're going to do: five things parents should not do with their gamer kid. Go ahead, give us one. Then we'll jump in.

Drew: I would say, “Don't parent with just the on-off switch.” I think that's maybe, primarily, what we think our job as parents is, to set the rules. “Here's what you can and can't do when you've had your time. Your time's up. I'm going to turn it off.” We think that's how you parent around video games: “Turn it off when I say, ‘You turn it off.’”

I think that's not enough. We have to dig deeper. Our kids want a relationship with us. Keep at it. Keep at it. Keep at it with your kids. That's a big part of parenting. You just keep at it. I think one of the things you need to constantly do is keep asking questions. Keep being curious. Keep getting to know them and the things that they're into. Be a student of your kids. Study them [and] what they're into.

You have got to build a relationship of trust. It's got to be more than just rules. I firmly believe that relationship is a more powerful parenting tool than rules. If they think you're just the one that sets the rules, they're not going to look to you for advice about really important issues of life, about the really big decisions that you really want to have some say in as a parent. Don't just—

Ann: —so, you’re saying, “Enter their world. Don't just say, “No. Yes.” Be involved.

Drew: Yes, exactly.

Ann: Yes, that's good.

Drew: Yes. And you may—if you're a parent listening to this, you may—say, “I'm just terrible at video games.” [Laughter] That's great because then, when you play video games with your kids, they get to be the Jedi Master and you're the Padawan, right? [Laughter] How many times in life do those roles reverse? I think when those roles reverse, when they teach us something, that's so meaningful for them. That's a ticket to relationship building that I think will pay dividends in the future.

Ann: Let me go to one of minem and I'm just going to preface this by saying, “I've made a lot of mistakes parenting.” Okay? [Laughter]

Drew: Well, you're in good company.

Dave: We both have.

Ann: Let's just lay it out there. I got better as time went on. The video games were fairly new when our kids were growing up, but I do remember—this is Number Two; I remember—going into the basement, because their video game and a TV was down there. They'd be playing, and I'd be watching. I thought, “I’m kind of participating.”

Drew: Yes.

Ann: It's just what you said, Drew.

Drew: Right.

Ann: And then I would say, “This is the dumbest thing I've ever seen.” [Laughter] Or “This is the biggest waste of time. You guys like this? Why don't you live real life?” People, I so regret those days saying those things, because what does that communicate to the kids?

Drew: Yes, right.

Ann: “The things that you enjoy; I think they're dumb. And the things that you're finding pleasure in, and there's a reason behind that; I think it's ridiculous.” Talk about severing lines of communication. This is important to them. It's super fun. And now, they feel shame over it and guilt over it. I did get better, and I was a good apologizer.

As a parent, if you have just been the naysayer, “This is the dumbest thing,” which I understand and feel; but just say, “Man, I'm sorry I've responded to some of the stuff that you've liked so much. I'm sorry that I responded that way—"

Drew: —yes, I love that—

Ann: —"and I want to enter your world. I want to know why you love it so much and what's important to you.”

Drew: I think when we do that—you know what we're teaching them to do? We're teaching them to hide it.

Dave and Ann: Yes!

Drew: We're saying, “That is something Mom and Dad don't like. We think it's dumb. We think—” They're not going to share that with us.

Ann: Yes.

Drew: I want my kids to share everything with me!

Ann: Everything!

Drew: I want to be the one they come to.

Ann: Yes.

Drew: I say, “Relationship is more powerful than rules when it comes to parenting our kids.” I think we could also say that about shame and grace. Grace is the tool we want. We want to lean into grace. Don't lean into shame.

Ann: Yes.

Drew: Don't shame your kids.

Dave: Alright, Drew! Do you have another one?

Drew: Yes, sure. This one is—

Dave: —we’ve got two. We’ve got three to go. [Laughter]

Drew: Okay, this one I would say, “Don't give up. Don't give up on your kids when it comes to any aspect of parenting.” But that's also true of video games. You're going to get tired of having the same conversation over and over—

Drew and Ann: —and over! [Laughter]

Drew: You're going to have to come back to the table again. You're going to be rewriting your screentime rules [Laughter] for— I mean, if you have young kids, you're going to be rewriting them for the next 10-15 years. [Laughter] That’s your future.                                                                        

Ann: [Laughter] Every parent is thinking, “This is so depressing.”

Drew: Your kids are going to be 16, and you're still trying to figure out. What should the rules in our home be about screen time? Don't give up. Keep coming back to the table. Keep talking to them. Keep asking questions. You're going to get tired of hearing them talk about their favorite video game. Minutes [or] hours go by, and they're still talking about Zelda or whatever it is.

Ann: Yes!

Drew: Don't give up on the conversation, and don't give up on the boundaries, continuing to have conversations around the boundaries, and setting them, and enforcing them. Don't give up in either space.

Dave: You know, it's interesting. I was thinking the fact that our sons’ kids play video games means our sons let them or actually want them to. They're saying, “It was a good thing for me and now I'm a man. Again, there are boundaries. We have got to be careful. We have our rules.” But they are encouraging our grandkids to play video games like it's not a bad thing. It can be.But if you handle it in a healthy way, it can be a very—

Ann: —fun!—

Dave: —productive thing, and a great thing, for a parent to do with his kid.

Drew: Absolutely, yes.

Ann: And they're very careful about which video games are age-appropriate and what they're allowing them to play.

Dave: Yes.

Ann: And many times, I know that Austin's playing with them as well.

Dave: Yes.

Drew: Yes, for sure.

Dave: Alright! So, we’ve got three!

Drew: Yes.

Dave: Mine is so lame. [Laughter] I'm sitting here, listening to you guys. It's great wisdom. Mine is identical to what we've said the last two days and even now, but I have an illustration.

Mine would be, “Don't condemn what you don't understand. Engage.” Again, we've said this. But it's easy as a parent to stand 50 feet away and point our finger, even at sinners, rather than stepping into their world. Again, it’s a different example—

Drew: —yes—

Dave: —but say, “What if I walk beside you and understood why?” As a parent of a video game child, we can condemn what we've never even looked at. Like Ann, walking in and seeing this thinking, “This is the biggest waste of time ever.” [Laughter] It's [wondering], “What would happen if we sat down—?“ And I did this! I sat down and watched the game they were playing. At first, I thought, “This does look like a waste of time.”

But I look over and they're really laughing, and they're competitive, and it's—they are really enjoying [it]. There's nothing wrong with what's on the screen. It isn't evil. It isn't violent. It's just—they are really enjoying something. Why would I condemn this? I need to sit here long enough to start to understand it—

Drew: —yes—

Dave: —and then be a part of it.

Here's my illustration, because I think as parents, we do the same thing with music or any other medium that our kids may be into that we don't understand because we're in a different generation, and they're enjoying something.

I was a musician, and I was in bands my whole life. So, my kids are starting to listen to different music that I don't listen to and don't even like. I think initially, “This is evil.” So, I remember—here, I'll tell you.

Drew: Oh!

Dave: I’ve got my guitar here. I walk in my son's room. I don't know, this had to be early 2000s, and I hear a riff I like. I should have an electric guitar, because it was distortion with a great drive pedal. But tell me if you know this riff—

Drew: —okay—

Dave: —at the beginning of the song.

[Plays guitar]

Drew: Oh, yes, yes. Blink 182.

Dave: Blink 182!

Ann: Oh!

Drew: Say It Ain’t So.

Dave: [Plays guitar and sings]

Drew: “All the wrong—small things.” All the small things.

Dave: Yes.

Drew: I said, “All the wrong things.” [Laughter]

Dave: [Continues playing guitar and singing]

I mean, it was a great song, right?

Drew: Yes.

Dave: We had all three boys sleep in the same bedroom. I think it was my middle son, Austin, who ended up being a singer in a great—

Ann: —in a band—

Dave: —band in high school. Anyway, he's playing this, and it's loud! And I immediately think, “This is evil. This is wrong. This is bad.”

Drew: Yes.

Dave: But as I walk in the room, Drew, I'm thinking, “That's good guitar playing.” [Laughter] So, I was going to condemn it and say, “You [have] got to turn that off right now. I don't know what this song is about.” It was one of those parenting moments like, “No, no, no! Engage.”

Drew: Yes.

Dave: I remember walking over, [asking], “Hey, man, who is this?” “Blink 182.” Trust me, I know enough about Blink 182. Their videos—you don't want to watch. [Laughter]

Drew: Sure.

Dave: These guys don't like clothes sometimes, but… [Laughter] As I stepped into their world and said, “Tell me why you like this song.” And it wasn't just the guitar. It was the lyrics. It was about this little thing.

So, it was one of these conversations: “Let's talk about the lyric.” And we did. I'm [asking], “What are they trying to say?” And I could tell they were thinking, “Dad's in our world!” They lit up, because I was interested in something they did, rather than saying, “This is wrong. Hey, you [have] got to go listen to The Beatles. Listen to my music.”

Drew: Yes.

Dave: It was, “No, I would engage in your world.” I think video games [are the] same way. You not only watch it, but what would happen if you picked up a controller—

Ann: —well, Dave, I'm thinking about that, back with Austin, because he got in a band after that. He really got into music. They had a talent show in middle school in the eighth grade—

Dave: —yes, he was in eighth grade.

Ann: — and Austin chose to do a song, and he asked Dave to play the guitar—

Drew: —oh, cool!—

Ann: —as he sang the song. I was [thinking], “What eighth grader wants their dad on this stage with them,” right?”

Drew: That is a proud Dad moment right there—

Ann: —I know!—

Drew: —I imagine!

Ann: It was pretty impressive that you did that with him, but he asked you to do it with him.

Dave: Yes, and I remember that song was not a song I knew. I had to go learn it and trust me, it was an intricate guitar, open tuning, the whole thing. I could tell Austin was thinking, “My Dad learned my music.”

Drew: Yes!

Dave: So, yes, we have a video of that. We're not going to show it. [Laughter] I'm walking up there— 

I think that's what can easily happen as a parent in whatever world, but definitely in the video game world, as you stand away and condemn, rather than stepping in. If you think of what Jesus did, He stepped in. You mentioned it: gluttons and sinners Jesus hung out with.

Drew: Yes.

Dave: The other side of that is gluttons and sinners wanted to be with Him.

Ann: Yes, they wanted to be with Him.

Dave: I mean, if you think about Christians today, who wants to hang around us?

Drew: Yes.

Dave: They're repelled by us. Sometimes our kids are repelled by us as well as [their] parents, because all we do is point a finger and give a rule. There are times when there need to be strict rules—

Ann: —Absolutely!—

Drew: —Yes!—

Dave: —on anything, including video games; but if they realize, “No, I want to understand. I want to listen. I want to engage. I want to experience what you experience at your level,” I think they're going to invite us into that world. And even when they may be playing a game and saying, “You know, Dad, I think this might be a little too violent. [Do] you agree?” And you say, “Yes, I think you're right, son.”

Drew: Yes.

Dave: “I agree with you. I shouldn't do it—"

Drew: —those are powerful moments, too—

Dave: —those are cool moments. So, that would be my thing. Don't stand away and point your finger.

Ann: That's a good one!

Drew: Yes, it was really good.

Dave: Well, that's what you guys already said. I just copied—

Ann: I wonder, too—I was thinking about this; I wonder—if it'd be good to know the video games enough to even, if you have gamers that you're sitting around [with], eating dinner, to ask them, “Tell me your favorite video game character and then why.”

Drew: Yes.

Ann: I asked our granddaughter that one time: “Tell me your favorite movie and why you like it, or what's behind it?”  It was so interesting because it was actually Bethany Hamilton, who is a surfer who had her arm bitten off by a shark.

Drew: Yes.

Ann: That's her favorite character, and I said, “Why do you think?” She said, “Because something catastrophic happened to her, but she came back.” You're identifying things in their character and their identity that's really unique. Even for a gamer—if I asked you, Drew, “Who is one of your favorite game characters that you ever played?”

Drew: Oh, that's a great question! [Laughter]

Ann: I mean, even Zelda. Wasn't Zelda one of your games?

Drew: Yes! It’s one of my favorites. Link is a bit of a one-note character. [Laughter] This is sort of a weird answer to that question, but I think what I like about video games is that we sort of inhabit the character.

Ann: Right!

Drew: So, you learn about yourself, a lot of times—

Ann: —yes—

Drew: —when you play video games, especially in some of these modern games. You're having to make moral decisions and things like that. You are playing as Link or whoever, but you're also bringing yourself into that space. It can be illuminating and challenging—

Ann: —yes—

Drew: —in a way that can be helpful, I think, at times.

Ann: That's good.

Drew: Yes.

Ann: [That would] be a good question to ask kids: “Why?”

Drew: Yes, it's a great question.

Ann: “What makes you like them or identify with them?”

Drew: For sure.

Dave: Yes, the best thing I like about video games is, most of the time, you get a new life.

Drew: Yes! [Laughter] That's right!

Dave: So, you die. It's like it's spiritual. You get resurrected, you know? [Laughter] “I just died.” “No, you didn't! You got another shot. You got three more shots. Keep going!” It's never quit. I'm kidding.

Drew: Yes.

Dave: But there is some aspect to that.

Okay, we’ve got—does anybody remember what we’ve got so far?

Ann: We all remember what we said.

Dave: On-off switch—

Drew: —on-off switch.Don't just parent with an on-off switch.

Dave: [Ann], yours was—

Ann: —don't walk in the room and say, “This is the dumbest thing I've ever seen in my life;” [Laughter] and “What a waste of time!”

Dave: The third one was—?

Drew: My second one was, “Don't give up on your kids. Keep having those conversations. Keep thinking about what your boundaries need to be. Keep at it.”

Dave: And my last one was, “Don't condemn; engage.”

Drew: Yes.

Dave: “Step into their world.”

Dave and Ann: Okay!

Ann: One more!

Drew: Alright!

Dave: We’ve got time for one more.

Drew: My last one, I love that a lot of our “don'ts” revolve around relationships—building relationships with your kids. I think that's beautiful.

This last one does have a little bit to do with rules, I guess, in a way, but it gets into relationships, too. But I would say, “Don't be ignorant about what your kids are up to. Don't be ignorant about the world of video games. Don't be ignorant about anything that they're spending time on.” I say, “Don't let your kids on social media if you can avoid it. But if they are—"

Ann: So, don't be naive.

Drew: Yes, if they are on social media, you need to know what's going on on there, and probably have their password. [Laughter]

Dave: Yes.

Ann: Yes.

Drew: And I think the same is true of video games: know what they're up to. It's not that hard to educate yourself about video games these days. There are some great resources: Common Sense Media is not a Christian website but [it] will give you some great reviews of what kind of content is in video games; ESRB.org.

Just get online. Watch some videos on YouTube or Twitch of people playing whatever game it is your kids want to play before you let them play it. Know what's going on. You should learn how to set up parental controls on all their devices.

Dave: You can learn that at Common Sense as well, right?

Drew: Yes. If your kids have phones, which I think you should avoid as long as possible, too—[Laughter] That's a whole other conversation. But if they do, lock those things down as much as you can. Don't assume that just because you put some parental controls on their devices, that everything's fine.

Dave: Yes.

Drew: Kids are way savvier than we think. They're super smart. They know how to get around technology these days. They grew up with it, not like we did. So, you have got to be savvy, too. Don't pretend like everything's fine. I'm not saying that you should be conducting an investigation every day with your kids. Again—

Ann: —interrogation— [Laughter]

Drew: —interrogation, yes. Again: relationship, relationship, relationship, right? Know what's going on.

Ann: Let me ask you, as we're talking about that part of it: you have a 12-year-old, but you also have a 5-year-old.

Drew: Yes.

Ann: Sometimes your 12-year-old could be playing games that your 5-year-old—you wouldn't want them to see. Would you put a boundary on that, or would you just not bring that game into the house?

Drew: You know, we haven't run into that too much yet, because my 12-year-old doesn't really ask to play much that would be inappropriate for him to see, but that happens.

Ann: But as they get older—

Drew: —right—

Ann: —if you have a 17-year-old with a 12-year-old—

Drew: —I'm going to have to think about that some more. [Laughter]

Ann: Yes.

Drew: You stumped me there.

Ann: Your kids are younger.

Drew: Yes, because right now, one of the rules that we have is that they have to play in the family room, —

Ann: —right—

Drew: —in the living room, out in the open. I think it's a good rule to have that they don't get to close the door and lock themselves up and play—

Ann: —or even be in the basement. Our video game system was in the basement when they were younger. Video games were new. I wouldn't put it in the basement anymore.—

Drew: —no—

Ann: —I’d put it in a place where we can all see what's going on and hear what's going on.

Drew: Yes. As they get older, I think you can allow maybe some time where they're gaming when everybody else is not around—

Ann: —right —

Drew: —maybe, but even then, you have got to figure out ways to pop in and make sure you know what's going on. This conversation is illustrating that there are no one-size-fits-all rules—

Dave: —yes—

Drew: —[no] set of rules for parents. The big thing is, just stay in the game. Be engaged. Keep asking questions. Keep showing up. Don't give up.

Dave: Hey, last question or comment from you, Drew. The thought of video games becoming an escape or, “I'm bored. I'm just going to play video games,” not just as a child, but even as an adult.

Drew: Yes.

Dave: Working in—

Drew: —well, the average gamer is 35-years-old.

Dave: Yes! There you go. So, working in the NFL with NFL players, often these guys would come home, and Ann would hear from the wives, “He comes home from practice and plays video games all night.” That was not just every once in a while. That was a lot of guys. And I'm not saying it's an NFL thing, but I would hear that and [wonder], “I think he's escaping something.” Part of it is, “I’m drained, and I'm tired, and I need to rest.”

Drew: Yes.

Dave: But it's easy to escape your own marriage. You're having problems. It's not going the way you want; or your kids, and you just—and again, it could be anything. Often video games can stimulate you in a way that you get lost, and it feels good.

Drew: Right.

Dave: It's like, “I can't get it right. I’d much rather do this than have a conflict with my wife tonight.” What would you say about that?

Drew: There's sort of two sides to that, I guess. We all need [to] escape. We think of escape as inherently bad. It's not at all, really. We all need—our imaginations are gifts from God. Everybody does it. We all escape, whether it's through the latest fantasy novel or a little—

Dave: —Netflix—

Drew: —Netflix.

Dave: Yes, binging something.

Drew: Or Fantasy Football

Dave: —yes. Hey! Don’t—no, no, no. [Laughter] You can’t touch that one. [Laughter]

Drew: But yes, when you were talking earlier about shaming your kids. Imagine if your kids walked into the room while you're on your Fantasy Football draft—

Ann: —yes! —

Drew: —and they say, “This is the—” [Laughter] “You don't even—“

Ann: “This is the biggest waste of time!”

Drew: Yes. “Derek Henry is not even on your real team? [Laughter] This is a fake team? And you're just watching his stats to see if—?”

Ann: We can say that, too! [Laughter] “Wait! It is a fantasy.” [Laughter]

Drew: Yes. So, we all need some escape, and I think it can be good. It can be healthy. But [what] we can't afford to do, as followers of Jesus, is stay there and camp out there. We know there are times when it becomes unhealthy, and it becomes an escape from real relationships; from really engaging the people that matter most to us; from living on mission; from our spiritual formation; from growing in relationship to Jesus.

We all need conversation and accountability. We all do. So, model that to your kids, that you're someone who is correctable. If your kids say, “Hey, you're on your phone a lot,”— [Laughter]

Ann: —"You're on your phone all night.” —

Drew: —your response isn't, “You don't have any right to say that to me.” But your response is, “Oh, you know?”

Dave: “You're right.”

Drew: “I'm sorry. Let's talk. Let's go for a walk,” or whatever it is. Conversation and accountability. Don't stay in escape. We need it to some degree. It can be healthy in moderation, but we can't stay there. We need to have that open conversation constantly where we're approachable, [and] where we can revisit those boundaries for ourselves. Because if our kids see us respecting boundaries for ourselves and for the sake of our families and our relationships, then they're more likely to think that's important for them.

[Studio]

Ann: I think that conversation with Drew was really helpful, and I really wish that we could have had a book [Laughter] like that when our—

Dave: —I knew you were going to say—

Ann: —You did?—when our kids were growing up.

Dave: What I loved about the conversation with Drew about gaming and our kids playing video games is, it was bigger than video games. It was a parenting conversation about, “How do you engage as parents with whatever it is your kids are excited about or into?” Video games are huge in this culture. We knew it in our day—

Ann: —oh, absolutely! —

Dave: —and now we're grandparents, and it's big for our grandkids. But man, this is a really valuable conversation for parents. They never talk about this. I don’t think most—

Ann: —never —

Dave: —parents have had anybody give them some guidance on how to navigate this video game world. So, this is a program that will change homes.

Ann: And it's not something that's going away. So, to learn to have those conversations, to learn to put in boundaries; that's really helpful.

Dave: Now let me say this to the listeners who love what we talk about. You're going to spend a lot of money this year on video games, probably.

Ann: [Laughter] Your kids are!

Dave: And I'm not saying that's a terrible thing, although you have to be careful with that. But let me ask you to consider what you do spend money on, because one of the reasons we can have shows like this is listeners like you become partners with us—

Ann: —absolutely—

Dave: —FamilyLife partners, which means they don't just pray for us. They financially give to this ministry. You could spend money on video games, or you can spend money on shows like this that will help families navigate the video game world or any world that your kids are living in.

So, I'm challenging you and inviting you [to] jump in and join us. You will help more shows like this get into homes in your neighborhood and around the world. That will literally change you, your neighbors, and our legacies.

Shelby: I'm Shelby Abbott, and you've been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Drew Dixon on FamilyLife Today.

You know, I just agree with Dave there. What we're doing here at FamilyLife Today is something that you can be a part of. If you want to partner with us financially, you could simply go to FamilyLifeToday.com or give us a call at (800) 358-6329. That's 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY”.

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Now, coming up next week, parenting challenges in the digital age are extremely complex and head-scratching. Well, Dr. Colin Outerbridge is going to be here with Dave and Ann Wilson to talk about just that. We hope you'll join us.

On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

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Episodes in this Series

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with Drew Dixon November 16, 2023
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with Drew Dixon November 15, 2023
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