3 ways to help your children navigate gaming

July 13, 2018

When I was growing up, many of the words and phrases my friends and I used came from music, television, and movies. Words like “righteous!” were inspired by the movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” We called things we liked “bad” because of Michael Jackson’s album. Or, we would tell other people, “Don’t have a cow,” just like the cartoon character Bart Simpson.

These days, many of the phrases I hear around my house come from another popular influence—video games. I hear words like “noob,” “skins,” “rekt,” and “mod” tossed around like everyday vernacular. Kids even mimic dance moves—such as the Floss and Best Matesseen—seen on favorite video games. Indeed, the video game culture shapes the lives of many children today.  

Designed to distract

One of the most popular video games currently is the third-person shooter game, Fortnite. Often described as part “Hunger Games” and part Minecraft, it has claimed the time, attention, and even the hearts of teenagers all over the country. For all you “noobs” out there, the synopsis of the game is that 100 competitors are dropped on an island to compete for weapons and other resources. They build defenses and kill off opponents in order to be the last one standing. One writer in The New Yorker described it like this: “In terms of fervor, compulsive behavior, and parental noncomprehension, the Fortnite craze has elements of Beatlemania, the opioid crisis, and the ingestion of Tide Pods.”

Many parents are concerned about their children’s fascination—even addiction—to video games, and for good reason. Some games are designed to draw the player in, to make them want to keep playing. Like gambling, some games have a “near-miss phenomenon” where players “almost win,” making them want to come back for more. Parents of teens who play these games complain of their children hiding out in the bathroom in the middle of the night to play. Schools say some teens play in the classroom on their phones. School work and other responsibilities often suffer for those caught up in gaming. Unrestrained gaming can affect a person’s mood and behavior, as well, even to the point of hindering their relationships.

As parents, we should have concerns about the amount of time our children play video games. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time whatsoever for children under 18 months of age. They recommend no more than an hour a day for children 2 to 5 years old. For children six and older, it’s more difficult to set screen time amounts because children use computers and other devices for learning as well as for entertainment. The AAP’s recommendation is that parents mentor their children through media usage.

3 tips for helping children navigate gaming

While most children don’t have an addiction to playing video games, we should help our children make healthy choices in this arena. Entertainment is a good gift from God for us to enjoy, and games are part of that. However, our time is not our own, but belongs to the Lord. We should steward our time well because it’s important. And like all things in life, we should seek to glorify God in all that we do. So, here are three suggestions for helping your children establish a healthy ethic regarding video games.

1. Make a technology use agreement

We need to teach our children to monitor their hearts and evaluate the influence gaming has on them.

We live in a day and age where there are many known dangers of using technology. It’s important that we set boundaries for our children and let them know what happens when they cross them. Your family might consider having a written agreement with your children about technology use: when it can be used, how it is used, and why it is used. This would include setting time limits for how long they can play; what games, apps, and websites they can visit; safety guidelines for interacting with people they don’t know while playing video games; and stated consequences for breaking the agreement. Signing and reviewing it regularly with your children can help reinforce your expectations and open lines of communication.

2. Limit their access

Parents should limit their children’s access to video games, especially in the younger years. As they mature into upper adolescence, we should help them develop more self-control in order to monitor their time on their own. There are many helpful tools for parents to implement, including ways to turn off the internet, turn off specific devices, set timers, etc. For example, Disney's "Circle" will help you control everyone's devices in the house, including setting time limits, monitoring what children access, and even restricting specific content. Apple and Android phones have settings parents can activate to restrict a child's ability to download apps and use the internet. In addition, there are numerous apps available for phones and other devices that help parents set limits on time and track their children’s use. Lastly, if you have a smart TV in your home, consider contacting the cable and internet companies to see what parental controls they offer.

3. Talk about their experiences

We should have regular, open conversations with our children about all technology use, including gaming. We should ask them questions to help them think through the significance of their gaming experiences. Some questions to think ask and talk through are: Why do you enjoy playing that game? How do you feel when you are playing it? How do you react when you lose or win? Do you find yourself unable to stop playing and thinking about it constantly? What kind of influence does gaming have on your heart and your relationship with God? We need to teach our children to monitor their hearts and evaluate the influence gaming has on them, helping them see that good things can become ultimate things that we end up worshiping. Even gaming can be an idol.  

Every generation has its popular influences—people, things, and circumstances that shape it. Video games are uniquely positioned in this digital age to influence today’s kids. As parents, let’s be wise in how we navigate gaming with our children, teaching them to glorify God with the various gifts he has given us.

Christina Fox

Christina Fox is a counselor, writer, retreat speaker, and author of several books including A Heart Set Free: A Journey to Hope through the Psalms of Lament, A Holy Fear, and Tell God How You Feel.  Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24