Can’t keep your child away from computer games? 10 steps to healthier gaming for kids

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Hooked on video games

Does your child spend too much time playing video games? This is a common problem for parents. These games have so many options, functionalities and activities. Kids can’t help but become addicted.

The effect of video games on kids

Video games have positive and negative effects on children.

Positive effects – Video game interactivity helps:

  • improve reasoning and memory skills
  • develop creativity, critical thinking, leadership and team work

Negative effects – Too much video gaming can:

  • lead to gaming addiction. This is a mental disorder.
  • cause anxiety and depression
  • harm the brain and damage long term concentration
  • contribute to obesity and muscular and skeletal disorders

How much is too much?

Studies say that:

Doctors say that it’s all about balance. You know your kids better than anyone. You should set the reasonable amount of time that you will allow them to play.

How do you know that your child is addicted to gaming?

The child:

  1. Is always talking about the game.
  2. Gets easily bored and irritable.
  3. Can play hours on end.
  4. Gets mad when you say “you are playing too much”.
  5. Gets angry when told to stop.
  6. Sleeps very little. They miss meals and forget about personal hygiene.
  7. Complains of back, hand or wrist pain.
  8. Forgets homework or chores.
  9. Does not have good social skills. They may not make eye contact.

Act fast if you see that your child has any or all of these symptoms.

How to encourage healthy gaming habits:

  1. Choose games that are right for their age
    Check the game’s age ratings. Go to Commonsense Media to learn about games, media and technology trends. You can supervise your child better when you know more. You should have approval of the games that they buy, even if they use their own money to get them.
  2. Set a time limit
    Give them a time limit for using gadgets. Set an alarm for younger kids. Be strict about the time limit.
  3. Let them play after their responsibilities are done
    Their priorities should be homework, chores, personal hygiene, family time and dinner. Game time should be a reward, not a privilege.
  4. Keep computers and gaming consoles out of their bedroom
    Don’t put the computer or gadgets in their bedroom. This way, they will not be tempted to play games during sleeping time.
  5. Be consistent
    They will not take you seriously if you keep changing rules. Kids should follow consistent rules to help them develop good habits.
  6. Keep an open door if they play online games
    Monitor them when they are online. Keep their door open so you can hear how they talk online. This can also prevent them from being victims of online predators or scams.
  7. Allow them to be bored
    Don’t worry when they complain that they’re bored. They should learn how to cope with it. Feeling bored can encourage them to find more active or creative activities.
  8. Make time for family activities
    Schedule weekend evenings for family board game nights. They may enjoy this more than video gaming. Let them know that there are other activities they can do. Get them into sports, arts and crafts, and other hobbies.
  9. Learn about technology
    We are living in the digital age where everything is becoming more advanced. You should know more about technology so that you can guide your children. Help them succeed by training them how to use technology wisely and responsibly.
  10. Always talk to your kids
    Always connect with your kids. Know what is going on in their lives. Kids who are having trouble at school or are being bullied look for an escape. They can turn to video games. Talk to them if they seem to be hiding from real life. Be ready to listen if they seem to be bothered by something. Read How to encourage open communication with your kids for more tips.

Sources: Video game addiction: How do you know your child is addicted? Laura Agadoni, Care,com; How to tell if your child is addicted to video games – and how to help, Stephen Bradshaw, Motherly; 25 + positive and negative effects of video games, Reynaldo Tumbokon, Raise Smart Kids; Seven ways parents can encourage healthy gaming habits, Beasts of Balance; Children and video games: A parent’s guide, Ellie Gibson; 5 ways to regulate video games for a peaceful home, Reuben and Efraim Meulenberg,; and How much videogames is too much? (Parts 1-3), Kent Toussaint, Teen Therapy Centre. Accessed December 20, 2018.

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