Video Games and Your Child: Warning Signs and Parenting Tips
If you’ve ever wondered if your child is spending too much time playing video games, you’re not alone. In light of recent news stories — such as the 15-year-old Ohio boy who was rushed to the emergency room with dehydration after playing “Call of Duty” for four (or possibly five) days without a break — many parents seek out positive parenting tips that can help them determine how much is too much when it comes to gaming.
Online and console video games is a pervasive activity among American teens, cutting across age and socio-economic lines; according to a study by the Pew Internet Trust, an astounding 99 percent of boys ages 12 to 17 play video games regularly. For most, it’s an enjoyable pastime. But for some, gaming proves dangerous, both physically and mentally.
Sitting for long periods of time can lead to health issues such as overweight, dehydration or even deep vein thrombosis, a potentially life-threatening condition. But the emotional and social risks posed by too much gaming are just as serious; more than two-thirds of teens report exposure to the glorification of aggressive behavior in video games, as well as sexist, racist and hateful content such as:
- Violence toward women
- Killing people and animals
- Drug and alcohol use
- Defying authority
- Foul language
- Ethnic and gender stereotypes
Studies indicate that teen boys spend an average of 50 hours per week in front of screens. Whether computer or game console, this consistent exposure to violent and hateful content may serve to normalize the negative behaviors exemplified by some video games.
Then there’s the school issue; studies indicate that video game use hinders learning, especially in boys. But how do parents decide how much is too much? These parent tips will help you determine if your child is spending too much time playing video games.
Warning Signs of Video Game Addiction
These warning signs may indicate that your teen boy is spending too much time gaming.
- Declining grades or school performance
- Losing interest in socializing, sports or other hobbies
- Talking about gaming
- Staying up late to play games
- Playing games for increasing periods of time
- Cutting off contact with friends or family who don’t game
- Hiding how much time he spends gaming
- Gaming in secret
- Feelings of anxiety or irritability when he’s not gaming
- Declining personal hygiene
- Playing for more than 19 hours per week
These warning signs may indicate that your child has a problem with gaming. Kids with low social skills and those with poor impulse control are especially at-risk of developing a pathological gaming habit.
Positive parenting tips for dealing with excessive gaming include:
- Limiting daily game time and overall “screen time” to no more than two hours
- Screening the games that your child plays; check ESRB ratings to ensure that games are age- and developmentally appropriate for your child
- Playing the games with your child so you know exactly what they’re exposed to
- Modeling appropriate gaming behavior
- Talking to your child about what they see and experience in games
- Removing game consoles and televisions from your child’s bedroom
- Setting clear limits and rules about game play, such as one hour after homework is completed
- Encouraging and facilitating non-gaming activities, such as socializing with friends, sports or participation in hobbies
If you’re feeling frustrated or concerned about your teen’s involvement with video games, you’re not alone. Many families struggle with this common problem, so reach out to your teen’s friends’ parents. They may just have some good parenting tips and best gaming practices to share, as well.