Now that Covid-19 has shut down schools, extra-curricular activities and pretty much anything we would normally have our kids involved in, we’re all staying home and isolating ourselves as much as possible. And some of us are noticing just how much gaming our kids are interested in.
Let’s face it – gaming is fun. It’s designed to be engaging, fast-moving, and competitive. While enjoying games is normal, concerns arise when children and adolescents begin to neglect other parts of their lives such as social relationships, family time, school work, personal hygiene and more.
I’m often asked to help parents determine if their child has a gaming ‘addiction’ and help develop strategies to decrease gaming time. Although a gaming ‘addiction’ has not yet reached a formal diagnostic status, gaming disorder is classified with the World Health Organization (WHO) and continues to be one of the most studied subjects in its effects on child and adolescent neurological, social and intellectual development.
While an addiction is a clinical term and refers to a pathological state, WHO defines gaming disorder as “impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.” It’s also important to note that this behaviour lasts for several months and creates difficulties within family, friends and academic engagement and performance.
How to Spot Warning Signs of Too Much Gaming
If your child is showing any of these behaviours, your concerns are well-founded:
- Playing for hours on end and getting defensive, irritable, physically or verbally abusive when attempting to stop them
- Appearing preoccupied, lonely or difficult to motivate
- Neglecting other meaningful activities such as family time, school work, friendships, outdoor activities
- Disrupted sleeping, eating and hygiene patterns
The good thing is, there are several interventions that you can put into place. One of the most important observations you can make as a parent is seeing the type of reaction certain games elicit in your child. Are they irritable, agitated, anxious, aggressive? Or are they enjoying a game of skill, creativity, and networking?
Strategies You Can Implement As a Parent
Either way, here are some strategies you might want to implement if you are concerned over the amount of time spent gaming.
Collaborate with your child. Work together on setting clear parameters on screen time. Children are more likely to follow a boundary if they were included in that decision-making process.
Have a cut off time. Limit or withhold screen time for at least an hour before bedtime.
Avoid the bedroom. Enforce a rule that makes it clear that no devices or screens are allowed in the room where they sleep.
Find creative ways to allow gaming time. Perhaps by “earning” screen time. Link time spent in other activities with obtaining access to video games. This could be an hour of arts & crafts that allows for 30 minutes of gaming. It’s up to you. Do this together with your child – again, they are more likely to comply if they are part of the process
Ask other parents what their strategies are. You’d be surprised how creative parents can get!
As we continue to stay isolated and practice our social distancing during Covid-19, there may be a little more flexibility on these. However, these are great strategies to keep in mind once we all return to our regular schedules.