Video games are everywhere. If you have children between the ages of 7 and 18, then they’ve probably already been significantly exposed to gaming. And while a small gaming hobby is nothing to worry about, it’s easy for it to balloon into a full-fledged addiction.
The Symptoms of a Video Game Addiction
“Studies show that a significant percentage of children may be addicted to video games, culminating in ‘gaming disorder’ being added to the International Classification of Diseases by the World Health Organization,” PrivacyParent explains.
Video game addiction is classified by compulsive gaming that causes significant changes in other areas of a child’s life. Signs and symptoms include:
- Spending hours at a time playing video games, largely without breaks or interaction with the outside world.
- Significant changes in personal hygiene.
- Rapid weight gain, chronic headaches, eyestrain, and soreness in finger and wrist joints.
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Serious anger and frustration at not being allowed to play video games for brief periods of time.
“Like any other compulsive disorder, video game addiction can have severe negative consequences,” PsychGuides explains. “Though most of the symptoms listed above have short-term effects, they can lead to more severe long-term repercussions if not addressed properly.”
Setting Rules and Boundaries for Children
Whether you suspect a video game addiction in your child or want to prevent one from developing, here are some recommended rules and boundaries:
- Be Clear About Ownership
You need to be very clear from the start that you are the one who owns the gaming system and video games. You purchased the system for your child and can just as easily take it away. When it’s your system – not your child’s – you have a lot more leverage.
- Set Time Limits
Letting your child self-monitor their own video game usage isn’t a smart plan of attack. You have to set time limits and ensure they’re followed correctly.
Every child and household is different, but try to limit gaming to 30 to 60 minutes per day. Perhaps you’re okay allowing a bit more on the weekends or over holidays, but be wary of allowing hours and hours of gameplay. Not only is it bad for your child’s health, but it’ll quickly feel normal.
- Establish a Reward System
Video games should be seen as a privilege, not a right. Make your child work for the opportunity to play. Establishing a reward system where your child gets video game time credited to them based on good grades, chores, and good behavior is better than just allowing them to play. Not only will you see marked improvement in other areas of their life, but they’ll also learn to value their gaming time (rather than using it as a time-waster).
- Avoid the Basement
Most kids keep their video game system in the basement or bedroom, but reconsider this in your household. When your child plays video games in isolation, they’re more likely to become addicted. Furthermore, you’re less likely to realize how much gaming they’re doing.
A better option is to place the video game system in the living room. This allows you to monitor exactly which games they’re playing, how much they’re playing, and whether they’re obeying the rules you’ve established.
- Get Rid of It
When a child breaks the rules, follow through on consequences. But don’t continue to put up with rebellious behavior. At some point, you simply grab the system and get rid of it. There are plenty of other activities for your child to participate in. Video games don’t need to have a place in your home.
Be an Authoritative Parent
Everyone parents differently. There’s no singular prescription for success. However, research shows that the authoritative style of parenting is best for raising responsible and healthy children.
In terms of video games, authoritative parenting looks like setting clear expectations, identifying boundaries, and implementing consequences for broken rules. It doesn’t look like banning all video games and forcing your child to spend their childhood doing chores around the clock.
Both you and your child have room to grow. Rather than pointing fingers and implementing tyrannical rules, work together to create a plan that’s centered on communication, trust, and moderation. When it’s all said and done, this is the path to raising a healthy child in a digitally saturated world.