Parents struggle with setting limits on video game playing to the point of feeling powerless. It can feel like the video game companies are controlling your children.
However, you have more power than you think to keep video gaming obsession out of your home.
Whereas drug and alcohol use often begins during the teen years outside the home, video gaming can begin at a very young age right in front of your eyes. Since alcohol and drugs are illegal for kids, it is easier for us to set clear limits around them. In contrast, video games are pushed on children and adults as being beneficial, fun, and a way to be socially savvy.
Let’s explore why it’s hard to set limits on video games and how you can make sure your kids aren’t chained to the computer or smartphone. This chain doesn’t appear overnight. It is created link by link. You can make conscious efforts to not build the links and take strong action now to break the existing chain.
Video games are a great way to keep kids occupied. In contrast to limiting movies or TV, however, limiting games can evoke extreme anger and disrespect from children. We must take this problem seriously because video games are made to stimulate the release of the feel-good chemical dopamine in the pleasure center of the brain, which can lead to obsessive gaming. Anyone can experience pleasure while playing video games due to the intensity of competition in games and the rewards of winning. Everyday life cannot compete with the excitement of gaming, thus the growing obsession with the unreal world can lead to rejecting the real world.
A link in the addictive chain is created when you habitually give your kids a tablet or smartphone at the grocery store, in the car, or any time you want quiet.
The decision to hand over a smartphone or tablet is an understandable one because our lives are pleasant when kids are totally engaged in a video game. This momentary ease, however, can lead to long-term problems down the line such as:
- Not communicating with children, which leads to significant barriers with teens
- Not learning how to teach children self-regulation and self-control
- Losing parental authority
- Expecting to play games and no longer asking – They reach for the computer or smartphone first thing in the morning.
- Getting bored easily without the intense brain stimulation from games
- Being less creative or less able to think about life
- Resisting physical play outdoors and not learning the emotional benefits of connecting with nature and with others
Many parents express deep concern about the addictive nature of video games and report beginning to see signs of addiction as early as age 10. Parents and experts report the following signs of addiction in children:
- Getting angry and belligerent with parents when limits are enforced
- Losing track of time and interest in previously important activities or hobbies
- Becoming socially isolated, moody, or irritable
- Neglecting schoolwork and struggling to achieve acceptable grades
- Complaining that they have nothing to do when they aren’t playing a video game
Due to their addictive nature and potential for many long-term problems, it is essential to determine your rules and limits regarding video games and post them, along with your reasoning, in your home. Tell your kids, “We realize that we need to set clearer guidelines about electronics use. The rules will be different than what you are used to. We know they will make our family happier.”
Here are some rules to consider:
- No electronics in the car except for trips over…(1 hour, 2 hours)
- No electronics in the morning until everyone is ready for the day
- No electronics at the dinner table – Eat dinner together at least 4 nights during the week.
- No video games on a school night – Restrict phone and TV
- On the weekends, kids must do creative play before using electronics.
- Computer or phone gaming must be done with the bedroom door open or in a common room.
When enforcing rules, it is essential to stay strong and stick to your limits. Once you have shared your rules and your reasons for them, you do not need to repeat them when your child asks you, “Why?” Just point to your posted sign. Never give in or negotiate with your children. Tell them that the rules are nonnegotiable.
Children are good at getting what they want by trying to make you doubt your decisions. They may say that you don’t care about them, tell you that all their friends are playing the game, or threaten that they won’t do what you want unless you let them play more. Never doubt yourself. Instead, tell yourself, “I love my children, and I know what’s best for them. The prefrontal cortexes in their brains are immature and need-driven. I am keeping the limit for my children’s safety and my family’s happiness. I will not argue or give in. I will feel good about myself.”
One of my clients, the mother of a teenage son, took the computer away from her son so he couldn’t sit in his room and play interactive games with his headphones on. He still had his smartphone, yet he couldn’t play intense interactive games. He became more pleasant and cooperative. To his mom’s amazement, he didn’t even ask for the computer back. During school, he now uses a computer that is blocked from any video gaming.
Each limit you set with your child will keep the addictive chain from growing and break the current chain. Bear in mind that you are setting the example for your children, so you must follow the rules around technology as well in order to ensure compliance from them.
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©2016 Cynthia Klein, Bridges 2 Understanding, has been a Family Success Coach since 1994. She works with parents and organizations who want more cooperation, mutual respect and understanding between adults and children. Cynthia presents her expertise through speaking and private parenting coaching sessions. She writes the Middle School Mom column for the Parenting on the Peninsula magazine. She works with parents of 4 – 25 year-old children.
To learn how Cynthia can help you solve your specific challenges, contact Cynthia at bridges2understa.wpstagecoach.com, [email protected], or 650. 679.8138 to have a complementary 45-minute discovery session. Why keep suffering? It’s time to change!