It is quite natural for most parents to think their kids play too many video games and this addiction is bad. Others believe gaming is much less harmful as compared to the dangers of the real world. Some parents think that even when their kids are playing too many video games, they at least know where they are and what they are doing. The truth is that gaming is not bad as long as it is within boundaries. In other words, you should know how much is too much and when to draw a boundary and make your kids follow your instructions.
You have to understand that video game addiction can have detrimental effects on your children – it leaves them with little time for doing homework, socializing, or playing other sports. Long-term effects can be devastating; in fact, children who delve deeply into the electronic worlds often end up developing several health complications, ranging from blood clots or deep vein thrombosis to severe dehydration. Kids spending too much time in playing video games miss out on many other activities fundamental to their social, physical, emotional, and intellectual development. This addiction can lead them to social isolation, and if kids spend so much time playing games with plots based on aggression and violence, this often makes them aggressive in real lives.
There certainly are so many reasons why you need to set limits when it comes to playing video games. If your kids play too many video games, here is what you can do to break this addiction.
1. Keep a Log
Before you make any move, it is important to be sure about how much time your child is really spending on gaming. You can ask them to keep a log of the time spent on gaming or you can keep a record yourself. This helps you understand how serious the issue is. Sometimes, kids do not realize how much time they have been spending playing video games. If you keep a record and show them a visual representation of how much of their valuable time is going towards game play, this may surprise them and they may automatically cut their time spend on gaming. Moreover, keeping a log will also help deal with any argument over the amount of time spent on gaming.
2. Determine How Much Game Time is Acceptable
When you know your kid is playing too many video games, the next step is to determine how to set limits. You need to determine how you want to tackle the issue. Some parents believe that one hour of game play a day should be considered acceptable, while others believe kids should not play any video games during the school week and get a few hours of game play on the weekends only. Experts believe that kids should not spend more than 2 hours a day in front of a computer or TV screen. You should keep these opinions in mind and then consider how bad things are in your home. Is your child spending 50% of their time on gaming? If it is that serious, you may have to handle things carefully and start by limiting it to a couple of hours a day instead of banning it completely.
3. Arrange Other Activities for Kids
Your child may be spending too much time playing video games because they do not know how to plan alternative activities. Help do the thinking. Ask them what they like and think something that will interest them. You can check local community center or get in touch with school guidance counselors to find resources for youth activity and sports programs. You may not know already but your community may offer adventure trips, boating clubs, mountain bike trails, sports programs, and other fun outdoor activities. Whatever you pick, be sure to include your children’s friends to keep things exciting. Taking these initiatives will definitely help and they do not cost you much. Arranging a party or simply a Friday night poker party will give your young child a chance to mingle with others and improve their social skills.
4. Set Limits but Take Charge of Things
It is not enough to tell your child that the playtime is now limited to one hour a day, but you need to utilize it carefully. Ask them that they are only going to get a chance to play video game once they are done with other responsibilities. Ask them to finish their homework and chores first and then let them enjoy their favorite games. It is not going to help if kids play their favorite game, even for an hour, and leave other responsibilities unfulfilled.
5. Make it Easy to Enforce Rules
One thing you can do to make it easy to enforce whatever gaming rules you have defined is to set the game system up in the living room. You can also have it placed somewhere that you can easily see what is going on and how much time they have spent on gaming. You are not going to have much control over gaming rules if a game console is in your child’s bedroom. Not only does it give them freedom to play when no one is around, it also causes too much temptation and makes it difficult for kids to focus on other activities. This is only going to make it difficult for you to enforce your rules.
6. Acknowledge their Efforts in Offline Pursuits
You should encourage kids to spend time engaging in outdoor activities in the neighborhood – recreational sports, bike riding, or just playing children game will help distract your child from video games. Sometimes, kids want to engage in outdoor activities but they are not very good at them and this discourages them. It is your responsibility to know how they are doing and encourage them to do well. You can also enroll them into a music class –then appreciate their efforts and acknowledge their progress along the way. The way you offer approval affects how your child performs.
7. Make Playtime a Reward
A good way to use your child’s love for gaming is to use it as a reward. You need to make your kids understand that it is a privilege to play their favorite game. Do not treat game time as allowance, instead use it as a reward to get your kids do something they do not like doing. Tell them they will get to play their favorite game for an hour if they help you mow the lawn. You can ask them to practice the trumpet for half an hour to win 30 minutes on the iPad. Similarly, you can make them finish their homework in a timely manner to get to play their favorite game for some time. An elaborate system like this works great for some kids, so it is worth using in your case as well.
8. Have Family Meals Together
You need to create opportunities to improve communication skills of your child who is always engrossed in playing video games. Having family meals together provide you with an opportunity to communicate with them. It also helps because playing video games is usually a solitary activity but making kids join everyone else for dinner at a set time will help lift them from isolated bubble of their game consoles.
9. Be Ready to Deal with Consequences
Setting up rules is easy but you may have to deal with problems while enforcing them. Keep in mind that there will be sneaking because your child has developed a habit of playing video games all the time. They are going to look for ways to get a chance to spend more time on gaming. One strategy is already mentioned – place portable gaming devices in a specific place where you can watch your kid play. Making consequences clear will also help. Tell your child what they will have to face if they refuse to stop following the rules. Make it very clear that they will lose gaming privileges if they refuse to play at the designated times only. You can disconnect the game controller for a specific time or set other consequences, such as no sleepover, no dessert, or something like that. Whatever you decide, just be sure to discuss it clearly and ahead of time.
These strategies will definitely help you make your child pay more attention to other activities. However, it is important to understand that sometimes it is hard for kids to break the addiction. If your child becomes withdrawn from friends and family, it means things have already gone out of hand. Know the warning signs of video game addiction and be sure to make some moves before it becomes a bigger problem. In most cases, things become normal once kids start getting more hands-on time from their parents. You may have to do the same. So, make a move now!