Nine out of ten times ask my child what he would like to do, if he can do anything, and the answer will be to play games or watch TV.
I have always tried to promote a healthy attitude towards other forms of entertainment or interest but for some reason that’s his thing. So I try to promote healthy gaming habits.
One problem with trying to promote a healthy attitude to kiddies playing games is you’re up against a gaming industry where some developers are engineering games for addiction.
So what can we do?
Don’t have any screens in your child’s bedroom
This advice came from my brother-in-law and works so well through its simplicity and makes regulating screen time so much easier.
Try to make your child’s room a sanctuary from modern technology, a place to read, study and sleep. With such an emphasis on the virtual world in their modern lives they need a place to rest.
If you can get your child to regard their bedroom in this way then hopefully this will stay with them when they are older and help instilling some form of self regulation.
Don’t let games/ screens become a crutch for your child on social occasions
I believe social skills need to be exercised like a muscle and your kids aren’t going to improve if they bury their faces in a screen. Also, there’ll come a time in their life when that’s just rude.
Test to see if screens are becoming a little too important to their life by leaving mobile devices at home. How do your children behave without these devices? Does it change how they interact with others? How is their mood?
Be careful about the games you buy
Just because your child’s friends play a game doesn’t mean that it’s going to be okay for your child. 86% of parents don’t follow game age ratings… over half let their children play games with 18+ rating.
Read more: Buying games for your child
Don’t let games or mobile devices become a default babysitter
We all need some peace and quiet at times but try and promote other forms of entertainment before reaching for the mobile device.
With younger children have a grab-bag of things they like to do like colouring books, a container with some Lego in, reading books.
For older kids I can only think of books. Got any other suggestions?
Be mindful of setting precedents
My son still thinks he can only play games on the weekend. He’s not questioned why, that’s just the way it has always been and hopefully it will remain like this for as long as possible… The same goes for the amount of time your child plays.
Note the cumulative amount of time your child spends on any screened device
Hopping to and fro between games and social media is a habit to be wary of.
Social media employs psychologists to keep you scrolling. Going from one highly addictive activity to another is a whole barrel of trouble.
Don’t see social media as downtime from gaming.
Treat screen time as anything that involves a screen and regulate it as such (with the exception of research for school).
A note on social media
Much of the above is applicable to social media which has also been engineered for addiction. Facebook’s founding president has made this clear: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/nov/09/facebook-sean-parker-vulnerability-brain-psychology
Facebook’s model of constant scrolling information interspersed with adverts is also seen in popular social media sites Reddit and 9gag.
Notes & References
*The Remote, the Mouse, and the No. 2 Pencil by Borzekowski DL, Robinson TN
Statistics on parents not adhering to age ratings: childcare.co.uk. This excellent article has some great, hard hitting facts about what parents let their kids play.