Today’s video games are appealing to our young ones: they are fun, the action is fast, the challenges are inviting. However, when children spend time in front of small screens – whether it’s the TV, computer or hand-held games – it takes away from the time they could spend playing sports, learning other skills or enjoying active play.
When children constantly receive their entertainment through computer games, they develop an increasing desire for instant entertainment which decreases their attention span and hurts their listening skills. Simple common sense dictates that too much time spent playing online games is counter-productive to a child’s healthy growth and development.
If as a parent you are not facing this problem (yet) CONGRATULATIONS! If it is a concern, (or you think it might become one) bear in mind that the goal of a parent should not be to remove the child’s access to these activities, but to help the child find balancebetween time spent using these devices and time spent in activities of a different nature.
What NOT to do:
Here are some suggestions to help reduce the amount of time your children spent playing video games.Many articles discuss strategies to reduce video-gaming time suggest “tiger-mom” measures such as removing the computer from the child’s room, installing access-limiting software, or simply pulling the plug on the computer. These methods are confrontational, and send a message that the child lacks self-control. Cooperation and respect should be the tools of first choice. As parents we should help our children see the consequences of too much time online and help them make the decision for themselves to bring more balance into their lives.
1. Play a video game with your child - Let your child teach you one of their favorite video games and give it a try. You may find the game instructive, challenging, or deplorable. In any case, you’re showing your child that you are open-minded and willing to try something new. After all, this is what you’re asking of your child in having them reduce time spent on video games. There’s a better chance your child will listen to your suggestions when you’ve shown a willingness to understand the appeal of these games.
2. Keep a log of time spent on video games for a week - Ask your child to keep a record of time spent on gaming. (Or keep a record yourself.) At the end of one week, show them a visual representation of how much of their free time is going to this activity. Is it 10% of their time, or 50%? It’s likely that your child hasn’t considered this, and may be surprised at the results. Once you have some actual data, any argument over the amount of time spent on gaming is eliminated, and you can see if there is a problem, and to what degree.
3. Show your child what that amount of time represents in other activities - With some thought, you can develop a list of activities and opportunities that can be achieved in the same amount of time spent gaming. As a parent, you should be prepared to help the child get started in an activity program, or help buy supplies or equipment for new projects. The goal of this exercise is to show the child what activities he or she may be missing.
4. Arrange active indoor or outdoor activities for your children and thier friends - Help do the thinking and planning for alternative activities for your children. (They may be out of practice.) To make it more appealing, look for ways to include your children’s friends.
5. Start a long term project of your child’s choosing - Your child may have an interest or goal that seems out of reach. If you can tap into something your child is passionate about, you may be able to help them realize their passion. Most children don’t think of long-term projects, but you can show them how planning and budgeting their time and money can bring big rewards. Working on the garden, building something, decorating, are good examples. Of course, as a parent your participation is required to help finance the project and help see it to completion. But a long term project with your child is rewarding to the parent as well!
7. Have family meals together - Playing video games is often a solitary activity. Eating dinner together as a family provides a valuable opportunity for communication. A scheduled meal together helps lift children from the isolated bubble of their game consoles and engage the other members of the family in the exchange of ideas. Family dinners should be a place for open discussion, where the children can discuss their gaming accomplishments, should they choose, and where they can also hear the interests of all family members. Dinnertime is also an opportunity for family members to discuss a variety of interests outside of the video-game arena and plan upcoming activities.
Encouraging your child to spend less time playing video games requires more hands-on time from the parents. This is not always easy, given the busy schedules of parents today. But the rewards are rich as we see our children grow, and as we spend more time with them.