Do you dread when it’s time to tell your kid to get off the video game? Does he/she go ballistic–screaming, kicking, and possibly throwing items? Does your child play games and do little to no schoolwork? Has your child begun avoiding social situations and not doing anything? Does his/her constant gaming make her behavior worse? Are you at your wits’ end because of all of these questions? This article may be able to shed light on your child’s video game preoccupation but it is not a diagnostic tool. If you are concerned your child is suffering from a video game addiction, speaking to a licensed professional is advised.
These are signs video games are a problem for your child, but it doesn’t mean your child is addicted. Many children explode when they have to get off of their video games even though they’ve played for hours. In fact, a survey showed some children play games 7 hours and 38 minutes every day, the equivalent of a full-time job with overtime, but that still does not mean they are addicted.
This article will give you some hints to set limits on your child’s usage and whether or not his/her game usage may be veering into unhealthy territory.
Whether your child is playing on a console (Xbox, PlayStation), his/her phone, or on a computer, when considering an addiction it’s important to look at various areas of functioning: at home, school, socially, and in their overall psychological functioning. While too much video games can be a problem, there are positives. Some videos games are educational, others lead to increases in physical activity, and they can lead to bonding between children, sharing, resilience, cooperation, patience, and problem-solving skills. Video games are a great benefit for your child’s brain as they are full of puzzles and may lead to more reading.
While hearing these positives seems like a chance to placate you, it isn’t. These benefits are real, but when your child is preoccupied with video games these positives can be hard to see. The one thing that companies don’t tell you before you buy a console or video games is that these games are designed to be very engaging. Children, especially, have a hard time disengaging from the constant rewards that come in the form of leveling up, getting new equipment, and just becoming a master at this game. Designers of these games know what will push your child’s reward button and they add all of these elements into your child’s video games. But, there are some signs that your child’s usage is becoming unhealthy, as follows:
Your child’s life is consumed by video games. When he/she is not playing them, they are all your child talks about. Your child may also spend many hours learning about the game and planning and anticipating his/her next gaming session.
Social interactions inside and outside of the home are nearly nonexistent. Your child has lost or not made any friends and withdrawn from activities that are not tied to his/her video games. Inside your home, everyone is at maximum stress because of your child’s intense video game usage.
Your child bathes irregularly and his/her grades are poor because gaming is all that he/she does.
When your child is required to stop playing his/her video game, for any reason, this has an intense and long-lasting negative effect on your child. He/she may become angry, aggressive, moody, depressed or violent. He/she may sulk for hours.
Your child has resorted to lying or stealing. He/she may have stolen games from family, stores, or friends. If not, he/she may have stolen money to purchase more video games, multiple times. Also, your child may lie about his/her time spent playing video games.
With these signs in mind, how can you put limits on your child’s video game usage and get your child’s life back on track with healthier boundaries? There are many ways and for some of you, this will be a long process because your child is a lot more invested than other children, but it is possible. You can get your engaged and lovely child back.
DECIDE IF MORE SUPPORT IS NEEDED
If the majority of the above symptoms are present in your child and/or your child gets aggressive or destructive, you may want to talk to a professional in your area, such as a pediatrician or a therapist. They can help you implement appropriate changes, respond to difficult behavior in a helpful manner, and enforce limits.
Ripping off the band-aid is not recommended in this case. Like quitting smoking, it is best to wean your child off of video games. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends an hour per day, but this drastic change in the time limit, or removing the games from your home, may hinder your child’s progress. Go slow. Discuss your child’s gaming habit and why it’s a problem. Tell him/her the specific problem areas, like poor grades or behavior, in a calm tone. After this, implement a rule which will determine if the video games get to stay. Let your child know that their behavior will determine if the games stay or not.
Do not assume your child can easily change their behavior just because they want the game. They may struggle to follow the rules if they are unclear on the rewards and consequences. James Lehman has four questions that may help you set new limits:
If the [insert new limit] is working, what will we see?
If the [insert new limit] is working, what will we do?
If the [insert new limit] isn’t working, what will we see?
If the [insert new limit] isn’t working, what will we do?
Discuss this with your child, including the question and answer. Ensure they understand what you expect and what will happen if they do or don’t adhere to the new limit.
PROBLEM SOLVE TOGETHER
Discuss new ways to deal with your child’s response to shutting off the video games and ways he/she can stop playing with less stress. Perhaps your child can avoid his/her favorite game close to shut-off time or choose a game that is less stimulating.
You may also implement a five-minute warning. Before reaching shut-off time, give your child a five-minute warning and ask your child to cut the game off when the five minutes elapse. An alarm clock may also be helpful. This can help your child feel more in control of the shutting down process.
Most companies have equipped their consoles with parental locks. If you go to their website, you can find information on time limits, rating limits, and other moderation minders.