#PlayApartTogether – Helen Connolly, South Australian Commissioner for Children & Young People



Recognising we all have a role to play in flattening the curve and stopping the spread of COVID-19, IGEA is talking to leaders and policy makers about the entertainment they are consuming and how they are practising self-isolation and social distancing.  We know many of our stakeholders love digital games and we love to seeing what they are playing, what they recommend playing and if they have any tips or resources to share with the community as they #PlayApartTogether during these unusual times

We spoke with Helen Connolly, South Australia’s Commissioner for Children and Young People for our #PlayApartTogether series:


What tasks are you undertaking to keep yourself and your family occupied during these times of self-isolation, and physical and social distancing?

At the best of times I have a tendency to be a bit of a workaholic, so the blurring of boundaries has made it even more difficult for me to maintain a work/life balance.  Couple this with my two adult children being at home – one is working from home while the other had to cut short her work in the USA to reluctantly come home – and life is quite busy at the moment.

My normal work day also involved a lot of physical activity with me walking to meetings all over Adelaide and of course meeting with kids every other day.  To fill the physical activity hole, I am walking every day around home and the dog thinks it’s Christmas!

The greatest loss to me is the contact I usually have with SA kids who energise, motivate and inspire me.  I have maintained zoom contact with a few groups to keep informed, and have put some of our work online. I’m developing new ways of connecting, but the face to face opportunities are something I really miss. So much so that my go-to movie watching has been some of the Disney classics – Frozen 2 is very funny!  I also overhear hours of TikTok and House Party coming from other rooms in our home. 

Why these particular activities?

My movie choices are an attempt to keep me grounded in what kids find wondrous and entertaining. They’re also a bit of fun and playfulness.

What games are you playing?

I would not consider myself a gamer as hand eye coordination is not my strongest skill.  However I am strongly attached to my phone, so the games I play are on my phone. I have a kind of gaming routine I use to unwind before I go to bed that includes solitaire, word search, jigsaws and crosswords.

Do you play games alone or with others? What games are your family playing?

I am a solitary game player usually, although board games are still quite popular in our family, particularly Scattergories and Pub Quiz.  I should add that there is a big competitive streak running through my children, so the playing of these games is not for the fainthearted.

Are there any games you recommend?

One of the activities I’ve been involved in as part of the COVID response, has been to work with State Government and others to establish a school holiday program based around gaming that utilises existing school PC infrastructure.  This has involved some hands on research on Lo-Fi website games that won’t be blocked by government IT systems, but which are still interesting enough for 13 – 15 year olds. The two selected were Kingdom of Loathing and Kongregate. Between these two there are thousands of fun, relaxing and competitive games on offer that I’m confident will appeal to a diversity of kids.

What resources do you recommend to assist parents and carers manage and monitor game play for their children?

With education, entertainment and recreation for kids all being done online at the moment, there is a real need for parents/carers to manage and monitor game play.  The first part of this is to recognise that we should still be creating routine and structure for kids. We need to maintain safety settings and monitor the ‘Up Next’ videos on YouTube that automatically play. These can be a minefield of inappropriateness, so restricted mode should definitely be switched on! My main message in relation to gaming, however, is to treat it like we would any other activity. This involves discussing the pros and cons of particular games and gaming behaviours with our children and young people. By doing this we empower them while together nutting out joint strategies that address the length of play, the kinds of play and the balance that gaming needs to have with other activities in their lives – both inside and outside the home. Now is the perfect time to embrace some shared gaming too!

Show an interest in what your child is playing. Join them in a game. Have fun and talk through the issues in the game. Try to understand what they like, why they like particular games, and whether what they like is appropriate. Discuss why some games might not be appropriate.  The more connected adults and kids are in this space, the easier it will be to negotiate different degrees of access at various ages too. Games are here to stay. It will be best if we try to embrace the upside of gaming, if we are to have any chance of managing the downside. 


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