PULLING THE PLUG: how to control video games addiction
- IWB Post
- February 19, 2014
With laptops, game consoles, and handheld devices becoming easier to purchase, it has become commonplace for children to have their own personal electronics. This widespread availability has created the phenomenon of “video game addiction” among children and young adults.
Children and adolescents can become overly involved and even obsessed with videogames. Spending large amounts of time playing these games can create problems and lead to:
- poor social skills
- time away from family time, school-work, and other hobbies
- lower grades and reading less
- exercising less, and becoming overweight
- aggressive thoughts and behaviors
So any good parent should chuck the computer out with the evening’s trash, place a non-negotiable ban on any online activities, and start searching the attic for that old Monopoly set, right?
The secret to ensuring that your children have a healthy relationship with the Internet and video games (and, yes, there is such a thing as a healthy relationship with the Internet and video games) doesn’t involve outright prohibition. Rather, it means effectively managing where, what and when your children play.
Read on to find out how you can transform your tech-obsessed offspring into healthy, well-rounded (and contributing) members of your family.
Take the screens out of your child’s bedroom.
Don’t let your children have a computer or television in their bedrooms. Keep those devices out in a public space. And position the monitors so you can always see what is on their screen. If they are too embarrassed to have you see what they are doing, then they probably shouldn’t be doing it, right?
- Ensure that their online activities take place where you can see what’s going on, such as a desk in the living room. Don’t let your children spend time on the Internet behind closed doors.
- Set daily limits on acceptable amounts of screen time — and make sure that these limits aren’t exceeded.
- Take the TVs and video game consoles out of your children’s rooms. As with Internet use, limit your children’s gaming to times and places that you can observe.
- Know your children’s screen names and passwords. If they are active on social networking sites like MySpace or Facebook, check their accounts.
- Learn how to check the computer’s history files to confirm what your children have been doing on the Internet.
Make them earn game time.
This teaches kids how to prioritize real-life activities over the game. Perhaps they need to do certain chores before they can play. Or finish their homework. Or put in practice time at the piano. Almost any activity will do as long as it shows your child that time with the game comes at the bottom of their to-do list. These games are designed to keep kids playing nonstop. Requiring them to put time aside to do other things will help them develop time-management skills.
Try to help foster your child’s social life outside of the game.
Video games are sometimes an escape for children who find it difficult to relate to those around them. If you feel this is the case, then you should find other ways for your child to productively socialize. Also, if their friends play online games with them, find out! It becomes harder to control your child’s impulses when they have all their friends waiting for them to log on and play.
Don’t let the game become their primary reward system.
Give them goals outside of the game that they need to achieve. Often, addictive games are so enticing because they reward players for meeting certain goals. However, these goals are always replaced with harder, more time-consuming goals, so the player is never quite “done” with the game. If children feel that they have more important goals to achieve than those laid out in the game, they will be less inclined to want to play all day.
Listen to your children.
For communication to be effective, it has to be a two-way exchange of information. And for you to be in the best position to monitor what your children are doing, enjoying, worrying about or otherwise contemplating, you need to establish an environment in which they feel comfortable opening up to you. Talk to your child about the kinds of video games he plays. Ask how he feels about the images and actions in these games and other kinds of media. Share your feelings about what you observe in these games. Use this opportunity to grow closer with your child.
Create a Facebook profile, spend some time watching videos on YouTube, and play a few games online. Depending upon your relationship with computers, this may sound like a waste of time or even an intimidating proposition. But the more familiar you are with the online world, the better you’ll be able to understand what your children should (and shouldn’t) be doing there.
Research the Rating.
Look up the ratings of the video games your child plays. The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) rates over 1,000 video games per year. Ratings are based on levels of violence, sex, controversial language and substance abuse.