MEDINA, Ohio — Remote learning comes with a lot of adjustment and alone time for kids.
Dr. David Miller with University Hospitals said he is seeing more and more kids display symptoms of loneliness.
“I hear this from parents, fairly continuously, that children are having a really hard time connecting with one another. They’re missing their peers,” he said.
For some kids, that loneliness has contributed to a spike in video games sales and more time playing those games, especially ones with headsets that allows kids to talk to their friends while playing.
Fifteen-year-old Trey Velayedam lives in Medina County. He, like every other student, went to remote learning in March.
“I don't really enjoy it because I can't see my friends and I can't talk to them as much,” he said.
Trey has always played video games, but when the pandemic hit, he used it as a way to connect to his peers.
“We don't have anything else to do. We can't see each other, so we just play online with each other,” he said.
Robbin Velayedam, Trey’s dad, said growing up, he was a gamer, too, so he doesn’t have an issue with his kids playing the games. He just has always set boundaries for them.
“I always was worried about them getting addicted and playing too long, right? So, we always had these guidelines in place that said ‘you're going play a certain amount of time. You only play after you're done with your homework, and it’s a little different on the weekdays vs. the weekends,” he said.
But Velayedam said he loosened those guidelines during the pandemic a bit.
“They use video games to connect, to socialize, to collaborate with their friends. There's only so long they can spend with mom and dad. They need to spend time with people their own age, and that's when we found out video games was actually the best way for them to do that,” he said.
Dr. Miller said that’s not a bad thing, in fact, video games can provide that socialization aspect that kids are yearning for during remote learning.
“But I think it's just important for parents to be mindful of what games kids are playing, who they're connecting with,” he said. “I think if they're playing video games where they're learning to construct things together, to build worlds together, to cooperate, to achieve things together, then that's what they learn play is.”
Velayedam said he and his wife approve of every game their kids are playing.
“I'll review online what the ratings are. I'll look at what people have reviewed the game. I'll even see a trial of the game or I'll go into YouTube and watch videos of people playing the game just to get a sense,” he said.
He said he decides what games are more geared towards adults and which ones are better for kids.
“They play Fortnight, just like many other kids play. They play Minecraft. Minecraft is not violent at all. Minecraft is very cool and very creative. So I don't mind them playing that because it brings out the creative side of them,” he said.
He notes when the games are a little too intense or his kids’ moods shift when they’ve played too long and then he’ll turn it off.
“But what I notice is that if he plays with his friends, then the mood is different. It's more like they kind of did something together. So win, lose or draw, it doesn't really matter. But yeah, I always am concerned about the level of realism in these games,” said Velayedam.
And for, Trey, it’s a win-win.
“It helps me know what my friends are up to, you know, like keep up with them. It makes me feel like they're still my friends because, they're there,”said Trey.
Dr. Miller said while the games are good for socializing, it is no replacement for face-to-face interaction and exercise, and notes while there’s no definitive rule on screen time, younger kids should have far less than teenagers.