ARE YOU WONDERING WHAT TO DO IF YOUR CHILD IS ADDICTED TO VIDEO GAMES?
If you are wondering what to do when your child is addicted to gaming I feel your frustration.
My 11 year old son has always loved his devices.
When he was younger, it was all about his Nintendo DS. The Wii followed soon afterwards which we would play together as a family (Mario Kart and Just Dance were our two firm family favorites).
After that we got our first family iPad where he fell in love with Minecraft – which all the kids went crazy over. We would have random parties at home where a dozen kids would come over and create a Minecraft world together.
Back then gaming was fun and innocent.
In many ways I also saw it as educational. My son was using his brain to create things and it stretched and opened his mind to new concepts and ideas. The PS3 followed after that, which was eventually replaced by the PS4, where he and his friends would challenge themselves with cute Lego Games like Lego Batman, Lego Harry Potter and Lego Marvel Superheroes. If the game included the word Lego in the title, surely it was fine and educational?
But then one day he and his friends got over all the Lego games and anything that looked even mildly cartoonish or educational. They were intrigued by games like Grand Theft Auto (R-rated so that was NEVER going to happen) and Call of Duty, which put the players in the role of criminals and delinquents.
Suddenly the tables were turned.
For the first time ever I realized that these gaming devices could just as easily destroy as they could teach my child. My old virtual babysitting friend (who had previously given me an hour or two to clean up the house and cook) had suddenly become my foe.
Fast-forward to today and my son and his friends are still obsessed with playing the PS4. It’s a massive thing where the kids in his class all can’t wait to come home and join these virtual parties that I personally can’t stand.
That’s because once upon a time gaming was the occasional privilege, not a thing my son did regularly to pass the time. It was never something he and his friends obsessed over or considered the absolute highlight and purpose of their weekends.
So how does someone who hates gaming (that’s me!) cope with this current phase in my son’s life?
Here are my top five tips for coping with a child addicted to video games.
1. Set boundaries you feel comfortable with and be willing to compromise.
Last year my son was only allowed to play his PS4 on the weekend – so from Friday after school to Sunday night (but wink, wink, he could only play it when he was home but more about that later!).
If I had it completely my way this rule would continue today but I recognize that times are changing. He wants to play it occasionally during the week while I would prefer it to only happen on the weekends.
The happy compromise is that he can now spread his gaming hours out during the week (but note: this is monitored and not a free for all). In the end he plays it for the same length of time every week, just not in the way I originally envisaged.
2. Keep him busy
Obviously if my son is away from home he can’t play the PS4 so this is my best suggestion for preventing gaming from becoming a full-blown obsession – KEEP YOUR CHILD BUSY!
Throughout the week my son is busy most afternoons with different extracurricular activities. Then when the weekend arrives and on Saturday he is out for most of the day playing wheelchair sports while Sunday is our family day when we try to do something special together as a family. This is in addition to the other myriad of activities that fill up our weekend diaries.
The general rule is homework always comes first so no matter what, so that needs to be completed before doing anything else fun. Other times, when we are home and my son’s eye starts wandering over to a device or console, I have other things up my sleeve to keep him busy.
Suggestions to keep your child busy:
-Get them to help out with chores, cooking or simply be useful – every family member should contribute in some way. This isn’t being cruel but teaching them essential life skills!
-Make sure your child don’t have any other homework or assessments he or she is ignoring
-Play a board or card game together
-Watch a great movie or documentary
-Go bike-riding or play outside
-Get your child to read something – anything! A book, comic or newspaper etc.
-Encourage creative projects
-Visit family and friends
-If your child is older (and now a teen with too much time on his or her hands) it may be time to get a part-time job!
During school breaks we will often go away camping with friends and if we are home, I generally try to get everyone out of the house for a few hours every day to do something that makes us feel like we are living life and engaging with the world.
IN A NUTSHELL: When it comes to gaming you will often find out of sight is out of mind. Use this fact to your advantage!
3. Understand that this is currently your child’s way of unwinding
I admit that gaming isn’t my version of fun but I recognize that every human being – from little to old – has a need to unwind and relax after a long day at work or school.
Try to be reasonable and fair. Don’t you honestly feel like just crashing, putting up your feet and doing something mindless after a busy day? I love to take a warm bath and read when I’m feeling exhausted.
My husband loves to watch sports on TV to relax. My daughter opts to watch makeup tutorials and as for my son…well he loves to connect with his friends via the PS4, which brings me to my next point.
4. Know that there are worse things they could be doing
A good friend of mine with three sons gave me the best advice and a reality check, when my son’s gaming first started to drive me crazy.
She said to me: “Is it really so bad what they are doing?”
“At least our kids are home, chatting away with their friends, laughing and having a great time via their headsets rather than roaming the streets getting in trouble.”
In the case of older boys, sometimes it’s better the devil you know. We forget there are kids out there who do drugs, ditch school, break curfew and have no interest in staying at home.
So when you have a child that is happy to hang around at home with you, under your watchful eye and the safety of your roof, you need to remember that there are worse things they could be doing…
I promise you – in ten years time, you will be worrying about something completely different. Don’t let this be the biggest drama in your life.
5. Finally, remember you are still the boss.
Okay I’ll be honest. One thing hasn’t really changed from the time my kids got their first device and that’s the fact that I still see gaming as a privilege.
If my son behaves disrespectfully, blatantly breaks the rules or seriously mucks up at school then you can be sure that there’s no PS4 for a day or the weekend.
Hint: amazing at how much this motivates him to behave well!
And I’m serious too about sticking to my word – I have definitely unplugged the PS4 and stored it away for safe-keeping a few times (okay LOTS of time in the beginning, until the message finally sunk in that I mean business.)
When your child is young, you get to decide what games are appropriate for your child. You get to set the rules.
For example, my son can only play online with friends from school – no strangers allowed!
Maybe you want your child to play no more than one hour at a stretch.
Maybe you want no more gaming after dinner time.
Maybe you want no screen time one hour before bed-time.
Maybe you want your child to go outside for a run before he turns on the console.
Maybe you want him to do his chores first.
My own rules vary a bit but for now I expect 30 minutes of reading and homework first and no gaming on the weekend before 8 a.m. (expect then we are out the door at 9 a.m. anyway!)
In the end, you are still the parent. You should at all times feel like you are in control of this situation.
But please always keep this in mind: your kid is still just a kid. Back in the 80’s and 90’s kids and teens were obsessed with their Atari consoles and Gameboys. In 10 years time, the next generation will be obsessed with something else.
When your kids grow up, they will have adult responsibilities and adult things to worry about. This is why I think if your children are generally great kids…
<insert whatever adjective describes your child here: funny, smart, confident, caring, compassionate, happy, creative, sensitive >
…then there’s nothing wrong with allowing your children to enjoy their youth and such games * in moderation *.
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