Kids Addicted to Gaming
By Cheryl Black
Lock me up and send my kids to rehab! They’ve overdosed on video games, and I am their pusher-mom.
The Love of Gaming
According to the National Institute of Media and the Family, 92 percent of the children in America, ages 2-17, play video games. My three sons are no exception. They love the stimulating fun and fast-paced challenges video games offer so much that gaming has become their lives.
No matter how much time I let them play, it is never enough. They respond to my nightly, “Boys, it’s time to go to bed,” with “Oh Mom, can we stay up a little longer? We want to finish our game.” One game leads to another. Hours later, they are still playing.
Sleep isn’t the only thing the boys sacrifice for video game play. Oblivious to their growling stomachs, I have to shut down the game system for them to realize they’re hungry. At mealtime, family discussion is replaced with gaming strategies.
Like drug addicts, they plan ways to get their next fix. When I realized that I had let their video game craze go too far, I limited their supply.
Striking a Healthy Balance
Questioning whether too much or not enough video game time is healthy for his child, Jeff Weinstock muses that video games, like prescription drugs, should come with a recommended dosage on the packaging. In an article published in T H E Journal titled, “Too Late for the Revolution?” Weinstock states that a sign on his pediatrician’s door suggests a two-hour daily limit on video games.
If your kids are like mine, they are well over the recommended daily allowance. The following tips can help you wean them from their potentially addictive behavior.
Tip #1: Schedule breaks between playing time.
Children accustomed to playing video games for hours on end may need time to adjust to a two-hour limit. Due to the over-stimulating nature of video games, one psychologist recommends 30-minute breaks after every hour of video game playing time and at least one and a half hours of non-electronic activity, such as reading, studying, or playing a card game, before bedtime.
Tip #2: Monitor game time.
If you’re looking for a way to stick to a two-hour-a-day rule, try what my friend Leanne does. At the start of weekends and summer days, Leanne gives her children two tickets; each ticket is worth one hour of television, computer, and/or video game time. When her children trade in their tickets for playtime, she sets a timer. The timer alerts both Leanne and her children when time is up. If the children go over the time limit, they lose a ticket the next day.
“School days are different,” Leanne says. “There isn’t enough time for video games on school days.” Leanne’s children have to complete their homework assignments, fulfill after-school commitments, eat dinner, and shower before they can play video games. By then, it’s almost time for bed.
Tip #3: Control Video Game Access.
If convincing your child to turn off the video game is a struggle, you may want to try the Time-Scout™ Monitor. The Time-Scout™ device connects an electrical outlet and a computer, a game console, or a television set and allows you to program the amount of time your child may play. An alert sounds when time is almost up, and the power shuts down when playing time is over. Unlike the backlash that parents get from their kids, there is no arguing with the machine.
Tip #4: Encourage creative play.
Less time for video games means more time for other things. “Like what?” asks the kid used to playing fast-paced video games. “Everything else is boring.”
Help your children brainstorm things to do when electronic stimulation is not an option. SpotlightRichmond.com’s Parenting Tips columnist Rebekah Robb suggests that each child develop a things-to-do-when-they’re-bored list. Her children came up with lists that included writing letters, reading books, building forts, playing with Legos®, riding bikes, and creating crossword puzzles. Whether they make the list with or without your assistance, you may want to include activities they can do independently.
Tip #5: Plan family activities.
Special family time is another great alternative to video games. Family night is big at our house. On game night, everyone writes down their favorite game, puts it in a cup, and we play the game that’s picked. On movie nights, we grab popcorn and candy and watch a wholesome family flick. Sometimes we venture as a family to the movies or bowling, and we may invite another family to join us.
Tip #6: Nurture other interests.
Alternatives to video gaming abound. Religious education, youth groups, and community service projects give children more balanced views of life and the world around them. Children may also find and develop a special interest or talent during after-school clubs or musical groups. Sports give children a chance to develop physical agility and athletic skill as well as learn sportsmanship and team spirit. All of these activities allow children to create new friendships outside the living room.
Offering these alternative activities is no guarantee that your video game junkies will conform to the recommended gaming allowance. But if you’re a pusher-mom like me, breaking your children’s gaming habits will keep them out of rehab.
More marriage and parenting articles
Cheryl Black is a freelance writer. She lives in Glen Allen, Virginia, with her husband and three sons.
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