Many parents worry about their children’s gaming habits. Here are some tips on how you can have an open conversation about it with your kids.
Earlier this year, it was reported that the pandemic saw a growing trend of children spending increasingly large amounts of time playing video games. The same report also mentioned that the Ministry of Education observed more students being counselled for gaming issues in recent years.
Having read this, it’s only natural that parents and caregivers worry about their children’s gaming habits. At the same time, we as parents understand that gaming can be a form of recreation. However, we’re also aware of how immersive – and hence, addictive – the newer video games are these days. So, where exactly do we draw the line on gaming for the kids?
Firstly, just how ‘much’ is ‘too much’?
Before you start mentally labelling your child as a gaming addict, let us first understand what gaming addiction is. Terming it “gaming disorder”, the World Health Organisation (WHO) describes a person with this condition as having “impaired control over gaming”. This includes behaviours like prioritising gaming over daily activities (eating, bathing, communicating with family members and friends, etc.), as well as continuously engaging in gaming activities despite negative consequences. Negative consequences can cover anything from health problems to breakdown of relationships as a result of excessive gaming.
Now, you might think: “That sounds just like my kid… he/she keeps delaying bedtime. My kid’s an addict!” Hold your horses right there, because WHO also stipulated that a person can only be diagnosed as having a gaming disorder if their behaviour pattern severely affected personal, social, family, educational, and occupational lives for at least 12 months.
Having said that, it is nevertheless important to start the education early. In the same vein as sex education ought to be done before the child starts experimentation. It is recommended that parents discuss healthy gaming versus problematic gaming early on.
Hear your child out first
Instead of starting the conversation with, “we think you spend too much time playing games”, try to engage your child by asking them about the games they play and how it makes them feel. It’s important to understand why your child loves video games and what this activity means to them. More often than not, you’ll find that they really do see games as a form of recreation. On a deeper level, gaming could be a form of escapism: a way to relax after a stressful day at school; or to be the ‘hero’ in an imaginary world that’s theirs for the taking; or they could use it to mask underlying mental health issues.
Understanding where your child is coming from can help you steer the conversation in a positive and constructive direction. Make an effort to learn about gaming and how there is a sub-culture and worldwide community that has developed around gaming. The more knowledgeable you are about the gaming world, the more you can connect with your child. After hearing from them on how and why they have been gaming, you can share your concerns with your child about the consequences of problematic game play rather than the game itself. Help your child build healthy habits around gaming.
Discuss about boundaries
The next thing you can do is to set up boundaries so that both you and your child are aware of what’s acceptable and what isn’t. Here are some of the signs of gaming addiction that Visions by Promises shared:
- Spending a significant amount of time thinking about games even when you’re not playing;
- Feeling irritable, restless, or upset when you’re not allowed to, trying to reduce, or unable to play games;
- Losing interest in non-gaming related activities;
- Feeling the need to hide your gaming habits;
- Continue gaming even though your studies, friendship, or relationship with family are affected.
Setting boundaries with these in mind allows your child to recognise the signs, as well as understand the dangers of excessive gaming.
Let your child know that you’re always there to support them
This is the most important takeaway from the talk you have with your child. They should feel safe to come to you should they break a boundary or feel that they’re close to doing so. As parents, we can provide our child with the safe base that they can always turn to in times of trouble. Providing them with firm boundaries, but loving support and guidance will go a long way to helping them correct their behaviours.
If your child is already exhibiting several of the signs mentioned above, it’s probably time to seek professional help. Visions by Promises, the addictions treatment arm of Promises Healthcare, provides recovery care programmes such as one-on-one counselling, group therapy, an intensive outpatient program, specific addiction support groups, family therapy, and medical detox. It offers a complimentary initial assessment to gain a better understanding of the challenges your child faces and their needs. Following that, the clinician may recommend interventions or therapy and provide a diagnosis, if any. Visions by Promises also has a Gamers Support Group to help with your child’s recovery experience, should they require treatment for a diagnosed gaming addiction.
Last but not least, be patient with your child
Adjusting gaming habits often means having to change your child’s interactions with their friends online, and removing their go-to coping mechanisms from underlying issues. They will naturally resist and might be apprehensive about making the necessary changes. As parents, we can be our child’s best support system in any circumstance. It’s not just about encouraging them to get better; it’s also about believing that they can be their best, even if it takes time.
This post is in partnership with Visions by Promises.