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The Salvation Army Opinion Poll on How Parents Value Playtime
Playing electronic games with children helps enhance parent-child relationship
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According to the Three Character Classic, “Reward lies ahead of diligence, but nothing is gained by play” (勤有功,戲無益). This Chinese proverb has been deeply rooted in Chinese parents’ mind for centuries. They strongly believe that playing is much less important than formal learning.
 
To understand how Hong Kong parents are affected by this traditional concept, The Salvation Army Father.COME conducted an opinion poll between April and May 2015. 150 parents were interviewed. We found that 29.2% of parents agree with this proverb. However, playing less is not equal to working hard. Their children not only play less but also invest less time in doing homework. 
 
Worth to Play
 
The survey shows that the percentage of fathers who agree with the proverb "Reward lies ahead of diligence, but nothing is gained by play" (37.1%) is higher than that of mothers (22.4%). Mr Lam said that when his son was studying in Primary Four, his academic performance dropped significantly to the bottommost level of his form. Mr and Mrs Lam felt panic and immediately urged their son to study harder. Although they always reminded his son how important the academic performance was, his results did not improve. Worse still, their relationships began deteriorating. His son refused to communicate and go outdoor with them. 
 
Later, Mr Lam played more with his son and mentioned less about school work. Their father-son relationship improved. Mr Lam even asked his son to share his skills of playing video games. A closer relationship and quality playtime enabled his son to learn time management. Eventually, the academic results of his son rose, so he entered a desirable secondary school. 
 
Studies show that playing has positive impact on children’s development, especially for games without winning or losing results. It not only creates joyful experience to enhance parent-child relationship, but also reduces stress or negative emotions. The poll reviews that the children whose parents strongly agree with this proverb spend less time in “doing homework” both on school day or non-school day (school day: -0.115;non-school day: -0.342). Playing less is not equal to working hard.
 
The Salvation Army also found that, on average, the playtime of children is 87 minutes on school day and 158.9 minutes on non-school day respectively. In other words, Children’s playtime is enough. The main point is how to effectively use it so as to maximise the benefits of playing.  
 
Electronic Games Bridges Parents and Children
 
Mr Cheung Yu-chiu, Assistant Service Supervisor of The Salvation Army Chai Wan Integrated Service for Young People, said, “According to the poll, the parents agree that video game is their children's favourite (father: 59%; mother: 48%). We encourage parents, especially fathers, to respond to the expectations of their children, playing electronic games with them. Video games can be a media to facilitate their communication but the knowledge of how to use the games properly is also important.”
 
Father Be Children’s Playmate
 
While video game is children's favourite, mothers think that their children also enjoy outdoor activities (31%) and playing in the park (37%), which is not noticed by most of the fathers (15.4% and 13.4% respectively). Mr Chan often brings his daughter and son to the playground but rarely encounters other fathers. A woman has once asked him in the park, "Why do you have time to bring your children here? Nothing else to do (meaning unemployed) ?" Although this experience made him feel awkward, Mr Chan continues to bring his children to the park. He believes that playing in the park can enhance children’s social skills and muscle development. 
 
Parents expect that playing helps enhance children’s intellectual development (Top three: 47.0%, same as below), relationship building (41.0%), muscle development and skills development (both 34.0%). Compared between fathers and mothers, fathers emphasise more on muscle development. The Salvation Army also believes that father playing with children is crucial for the development of children.  
 
Parents Too Busy to Play with Children
 
Most of the parents understand that playing with their children is important. However, in the poll, we found that “no time” (Top three: 50.8%, same as below), “too tired” (46.9%) and “children have tests/ exams” (28.1%) were key factors hindering parents from playing with their children. Fathers (56.4%) are more affected by the factor of “too tired” than mothers (39.7%).  
 
“Too tired” may be a result of overstress or long working hours. The community should care for the parents who have no time to accompany their children due to these reasons.
 
Game Day on Father’s Day
 
To encourage fathers to play with their children, The Salvation Army Father.COME organised a Game Day on Father’s Day. Work hard, play hard. Fathers, please play with your children at least 15 minutes every day.
 
 

About Father.COME
 
Established in 2004, The Salvation Army “Father.COME” is a group of fathers who care about parenting and meet up regularly to share their experiences. In a relaxed atmosphere, the fathers exchange their experience in parenting, as well as their struggles in work and family. Mr Cheung Yu-chiu, the social worker of the group, says men’s emotions are more subtle. Combined with work pressure and little family time, fathers may find it hard to build up a close relationship with their children. A supporting network can thereby help them relieve stress and learn communication skills with children.
A happy family makes every...
Mr Lam played with his son ...