While we might have some awareness that too much gaming is bad for kids, it has long been unclear how much screen time is unhealthy.
Although gaming has been hugely popular ever since Nintendo exploded onto the scene in the 80’s, in more recent years it has become even more immersive. Millions of players are online at any given time, and gaming YouTubers have huge numbers of followers. It has never been more tempting to want to spend every hour of the day on the PlayStation, and shun other activities as a result.
Online gaming has long been seen as a challenge for parents with alarmist stories appearing. However, if gaming is so dangerous then the pandemic would have seen a significant rise in this so-called addiction. But, it hasn’t. For the very small number of kids who develop a gaming disorder it can be serious. As with all psychological problems early detection and treatment is important. However, for the vast majority of kids it’s not a disorder, but it may become unhealthy and need intervention.
Do’s & don’ts for parents
- Don’t approach the issue with your child like their gaming is a problem. Your kids may get defensive and feel your only agenda is to stop them (… it usually is).
- Take the time to find out what they like about the games.
- Don’t look at gaming as all negative- remember how online life was incredibly important during the pandemic.
- Don’t assume this is all about being on their own or isolating. Most games are social now, played between kids who know each other in real life. If your child is playing with friends and you take away their games, you are actually taking away contact with their real-world mates.
Our kids’ online lives can be worrying when we come across negative news stories. However, it’s important to remember the benefits that being online has, such as:
- Employment and education, using computers are essential in today’s world
- Neurological growth- whilst some believe that being online ‘rots’ your brain, it usually enhances it • It is being utilised in medicine in pain management to reduce the opiate use in serious injury such as burns
- Developing friendships- it’s one of the primary ways kids make and cement real-world friendships and this is particularly true for boys
Signs that gaming is becoming a problem
- Consistent sleep deprivation due to gaming
- Reduction in self-care and prioritising gaming
- Not managing interactions and actually replacing gaming ones for real world ones
- Not having any other interests outside of gaming and online activities
The best approach is always to talk to your child. One way to manage things more effectively may be to limit their screen time to an hour or two a day. Ensure that there is plenty of time spent doing other activities such as sports, clubs or hobbies.
What to do if your child becomes obsessed
If you see your child withdrawing into their online world, not wanting to take part in other activities or being aggressive, it may be time to seek professional help. The gaming use may be a symptom of another issue such as bullying. Always seek help if you are concerned.
This blog originally appeared on Fegans.org.
About Fegans Children’s Counselling Services
Now a part of Spurgeons Children’s Charity, Fegans counsellors work one to one with children in our centres, online and in primary and secondary schools throughout the South East.
We also provide parenting support for families with significant challenges such as supporting those with additional needs. We deliver much of this work through five town-wide family hubs in partnership with schools and our own preschool family hubs.
To learn more about our Children’s Counselling services click here.