“Is my kid addicted to video games?”

I hear that question all the time from parents.  The word “addiction” is thrown round a lot these days… Video game addiction is not actually in the diagnostic manual per se, but some families have a real issue with their child being clued to a video game for many hours of the day. Sometimes, this is at the detriment of the social relationships play, family relationships, getting things.

To steer away from the term addiction, which could be used totally appropriate here, I want to go to little bit deeper  with this topic. As a hypnotherapist that helps people transition from being a smoker to a nonsmoker, the term addiction can sometimes leave people feeling stuck and held captive by something larger than them.  I prefer to use the word habit, just because habits are much easier to change.   It’s all about perception and mindset, especially with our kids.

I just had an episode with Dr. Temple Grandin, perhaps the most famous person with Autism Spectrum Disorder in the world.  In that episode, she spoke to the connection between kids have an Autism Spectrum Disorder and their often strong attraction to play videogames. Many people children and adults included are trying to videogames for hours on end. Dr. Grandin recommends limiting their time on the games and involving them in some type of activity where they feel useful and helpful.  This approach helps prevent the dreaded scenario of having a 29 year old living at your house without skill, ambition, and desire to move into a more interactive kind of life that involves independence, responsibility and work ethic.

When is video gaming a problem?

Moderation is the keyword here. And, prioritization. Just to be clear I am not anti-video games, I’m just pro parenting wisely when it comes to this area. As a parent of the kid that loves to play video games I totally understand the excitement and the joy and skill building in all of the strategic thinking that  goes with it. I’ve also experienced the other end where it is all-consuming, when situations left me wondering how to wean back without an unimaginable amount of upset or a disaster scenario.

This is where an ounce of prevention is like a pound of cure applies.  But, it’s never, ever too late to improve.

Excessive, unmonitored, and/or violent video gaming can put a child at risk for increased irritability, avoidance of other healthy activities such as playing, reading, doing chores, spending time with family, obesity, etc.…  A very real concern sometimes involves safety such as connection and communication with strangers. It can get downright scary.But what can you do? What’s the solution? It can be a real dilemma, especially if you have a child that has been playing games for years and you fear an emotional explosion if you decide to pull the plug. Many times children that Play video games excessively also use the gaming as a in emotional self-regulation technique a.k.a. “A source of calming.” This could create a situation where the child is especially upset over losing the privilege of playing video game, win the video game is actually their way of calming down. This is why I recommend never going “cold turkey”. Never take away 100% of the videogame time if they are truly relying on it to help regulate their emotions without any other calming techniqes. Slowly pulling back to healthier lifestyle can be achieved much easier. Our children’s brains are not fully developed until about the ages of 21 to 24, so they are already working on limited ability to come down.Okay, following are the things that I think are important to keep in mind when making decisions around this matter. Each family is different… each family has their own set of values, rules, expectations, culture,… So the decisions that you may make for your child may look totally different than the decisions that your friend makes for her child– And that’s okay!

Be involved, know what your kid is playing enjoying in periodically. When you are not involved it is like a secret world you have limited information about. No need to tell you about all of the dangers of the Internet, as I’m sure that you already know from my previous podcast episode on the subject. Sit down with your child to play the game every once in a while. It’s hard to find time to even take a shower before 11 PM much less to sit down to play a video game with your kid. But it is so very important to be involved. It’s a big deal.  The stakes are high.  Then you know what your child was doing and is exposed to, as well as it turns it into a connected activity.

Also, pay attention to the rating levels… I recommend being really conservative with time here… Some of the games with the enhanced graphic these days are really activating… It does have an effect on your child’s perception of normalcy. Kids need to be kids while they are kids. Enough said here the violent games are not good …for anyone !

Place your child’s gaming device and/or computer in a public area. When parents put gaming devices in their bedroom, they are really limiting their capacity to not only know what the child is playing to be more aware of how long they are playing for and with whom they are playing. This is a biggie!Also, prioritize, prioritize, prioritize… be sure that your child gets their chores done come other homework done, their playtime and their social time in before they play games.  Also, be sure that they get to be in time.  The crankiness meter can shoot up fast with sleep deprivation, regardless of age.  This helps to ensure that gaming is PART of their life, not their ENTIRE life. Many kids are at risk of turning into a hermit crab and staying in the room for hours upon and only to come out when they need food, a bathroom break, or prompted by their parents.  It can get bad sometimes.

Some warning signs that your child is playing too much is when they give emotionally explosive when it’s time to get off, when you wake up in middle the night to go to the bathroom and you see that they’re playing video games instead of sleeping school night or not, feelings of disconnection from family and friends, when they do not get enough physical exercise because they are always sitting in front of the computer or the gaming device,  when they don’t want to do anything except for play their video game, and several more things that I’m probably not thinking about basically becomes a problem when it is the problem. What are your thoughts? Jump in the Facebook group at Parenting in the Rain Community and let me know what strategies you have adopted to help your kids moderator video game usage

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