Our Children and Video Games

 
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Video games make people dead to everything else,” says a woman whose husband and children spend most of their spare time engrossed in electronic games of some kind.

These same games, once deemed leisure and relaxation activities, are now being associated with negative life habits and time management, lessened anger-control, family dysfunction and sensation seeking. In 2007, research also found there is a direct and strong negative correlation between electronic game playing and academic performance. It showed that as video game usage increases, scholarship aptitude test scores and grade point averages decrease.

The term “gaming addiction” once meant addiction to gambling. However, it now relates to any significant addiction people have to their Wii, X-Box, PlayStation or computer, and online computer games. Where once, people with gaming addictions were almost exclusively adults, it now has a stranglehold on all ages.

leisure to addiction

Generally speaking, “addiction” describes a recurring compulsion for an individual to engage in a specific activity, despite harmful consequences. It becomes unhealthy when it dominates most of a child’s away-from-school time (but often creeping into school life), impeding their social and academic success.

Is your child too tired or uninterested in doing their homework or having difficulty concentrating in class? Are their grades slipping? These are earlywarning signs of the need for intervention. Other signs may include:

  • Inattention to healthy habits such as exercise, a balanced diet and, sometimes, even a lack of cleanliness
  • Poor levels of concentration on activities other than gaming
  • Lack of engagement in other areas of their life
  • Few social interactions with family members
  • Not maintaining their responsibilities around the home
  • Preferring not to leave home on weekends or taking their games with them when they do leave
  • Not voluntarily spending time outdoors
  • Irritable and cranky behaviour when not playing games
  • It isn’t hard to see how a gaming addiction can have significant impact on family life and a person’s long-term prospects. Perhaps most damaging is the fact that those who engage in compulsive and ongoing gaming activities lose connection with family and the outside world.

    battling gaming addiction

    So how does one deal with it? Here’s a seven-point strategy you can adapt to your circumstance.

    1 Analyse the problem, looking at the pros and cons. Make a four-square matrix with the child. Write in the pros of reducing their gaming time, the pros of not reducing their gaming time, the cons of reducing their gaming time, and the cons of not reducing their gaming time. Go back to this if you start to lose your way.

    2 Remember, it’s not entirely the child’s fault. The whole family has enabled this problem to develop-purchasing the hardware as a present, for example-and so all need to be willing to own and talk openly about it.

    3 Don’t shame ‘n’ blame. Say, “You can do it!” realising the process may involve relapses and that you are working toward your child’s better emotional, social, physical and academic health.

    4 Establish an agreed gaming time limit and cut down their gaming slowly. Aim for no more than half an hour during the school week and two for the weekend. Use a timer so that the child isn’t emotionally engaged with the mechanism (such as mum or dad) telling them when their time is up.

    5 Make video gaming a reward for completing homework, not as the first thing they do after school. Divert them by having a healthy snack ready when they arrive home, then help them begin their homework as they eat. (This is a great way for a child to not feel the “pain” of getting started.)

    6 Create opportunities for reconnection. Get them outdoors, active and spending time with family doing fun things. There may be grumpy faces for a while, but it will eventually work!

    7 Make gaming less accessible. Remove consoles from bedrooms and relocate them to open, family spaces. This will make the habit more obvious. n If you’re ever tempted to just “Let the child play the game, for goodness sake!” remember, the video game makers and marketers are counting on it. They want your child addicted to their games. They care neither about you nor your child.