1. PLAY WITH YOUR KIDS
Our first parenting tip is essentially to have fun!
Set up the gaming device in a family room. This can be the kitchen, the living room or wherever you feel like you are in control. Not the bedroom, or the kids’ playroom or any other room where the kids feel like they have ownership.
If you feel that you are in control of the gaming, you can allow your children to play more isolated. But if it’s hard for you to manage the gaming behaviour of your child, it would be advisable to keep gaming in common areas where you can monitor what’s happening.
If your kids play in the common areas you should try and be a part of it as much as you can. Seeing the game in action will give you a better understanding of what your child is doing and it will also help create a dialogue about the game.
You don’t have to like the games, but you do need to know what your kids are doing!
2. CHOOSE THE RIGHT GAME
If you let your child play video games you need to be able to decide which games are appropriate and suitable. The same way you would assess the safety and suitability of any other toy.
So how do you do this?
Well, the first step is to check the Classification for a neutral rating of the content in the game. If you are unsure about how the Classification system works, please read the previous chapter.
To get a feel for the game you can preview some of its gameplay on YouTube. This is the best way to quickly find out what the game is all about.
If you like what you see, then the next step would be to purchase the game and play it yourself or at least watch as your child starts playing the game. Explain that this is the review phase and that you still have not made a decision on whether they get to play the game or not.
Check your child’s reaction to the content and assess whether they are ready for this style of game.
This is even easier on the mobile platform. You can first download the game in your own time to check it out. Then you either re-download it so your child can start from the beginning or simply hand it to your child.
For more parenting tips and advice on how to choose the right game, download the free Parent’s Guide to Gaming
professional help is available
3. SET GAME SPECIFIC LIMITS
So, what is the answer to the million dollar parenting question: How long can I let my child play video games? Research into this was undertaken recently by Dr Pryzbylski of Oxford University fame. It was an attempt to give parents a guide; an actual measurable and practical answer to what is a difficult question.
But the results were inconclusive: it depends on your child, their age, their understanding of technology, the game itself, its content, and so on… There were just too many variables involved to provide a general answer that would suit every child in the world.
However, the research did have an interesting outcome:
‘A moderate amount of gaming (one hour per day) is better for your child than no gaming at all. And this is particularly true for boys.’
So, one hour of gaming per day, as a guide, seems to be a good piece of parenting advice. Of course you need to take other things into account as well such as violent content, gambling content, and so on…
Time limits are especially good when you are unfamiliar with or are unable to monitor the game. However, if you do have a good understanding of the game you can set limits that make more sense. For example:
- 3 races of 3 laps in a racing game.
- 3 matches in a football game
- Recreate your room in Minecraft
- 2 levels in a platform game
This shows your child that you understand the game and that you’ve defined exactly what you’re allowing them to do. You’ve chosen the game and now you’ve shown them what they can do within this game. You have control!
As a parent you should be the one who sets the limits or rules within your household.
For example: It may be time to stop handing over the IPad blindly without knowing what your kids are playing and without setting any limits. If you do this you’ve already given away control of the device and it will be very difficult to get it back!
A final word about limits.
If you are the one who sets the limits, then, you can change the limits and you can change them at random. This really depends on your child and how they deal with rules. Some families work best with set limits for schooldays and set limits for holidays. Others are comfortable with deciding on the day what the limits are going to be.
Setting limits makes it very clear and predictable for your child. Write them out on the fridge if you like so that you can refer to it any time they come and ask to play.
4. PRACTICE STOPPING
You’ve just allowed you child to play a video game; now it’s time to take responsibility for the impact it’s having on them.
Your child has just been exposed to a barrage of stimuli causing increased dopamine levels in the brain. Video games are exciting, engaging, and can be one of the most captivating things that you can expose children to. So, when you take this away from them, you will definitely see a reaction!
Don’t be surprised if your child is grumpy and annoyed after gaming. They are just settling back into normal life.
Real life is nowhere near as stimulating as gaming and your child will feel that it is ‘boring’ in comparison. Which, in turn, will make them act up and demand more gaming time.
This is where you need to be strong and stick to the limits you’ve set. Practice them often and discuss with your children their behaviours when they get off the game. Be consistent so that your child knows what to expect when they get off the game.
Now that you know that you can expect this type of behaviour, you can brace yourself and prepare for how to deal with it. Don’t panic, your child’s desire to play more does not necessarily mean that they are ‘addicted’!
5. GET PARENTING HELP
If any of these parenting tips are difficult to put into practice you should consider seeking help.
Help is available and there is no shame in having a conversation with a professional about what you can do; or which measures they can suggest you put in place to regain control.
Early intervention is by far the most successful intervention when you are dealing with challenging behaviours or mental health issues.
Read the Parent’s Guide to Gaming to get more parenting advice, find out more about identifying a gaming disorder and where to seek help.