Parenting Tips for Gaming Addiction Help
Gaming addiction help for kids is uncharted territory for most parents. Parents today are tasked with raising the very first generation of kids immersed in a world of technology. Screens are everywhere. Kids bring cell phones to school and often have access to games on the bus, in class, in the lunchroom, and back home again until mom or dad return from work. For most families, gaming addiction help begins at home and requires a parent to step up a structure for a child to succeed.
It’s easy to get locked into a pattern of policing electronics. The problem with a policing strategy is that it does nothing to help the child learn how to manage electronic use independently. If your child is headed to college or independent living soon without the ability to manage their screen activity, you should intervene as soon as possible.
Below are some useful tips to get started with gaming addiction help:
1. Discuss the issue.
Sit down with your child and discuss your concerns. Don’t criticize or blame. Simply express your concern and create a dialog about the topic. A child will more likely change if the influence is positive and supportive versus critical in nature. Gaming addiction help starts with building empathy with the child and expressing genuine concern.
2. Set an agreement.
Agreeing on limits is a great next step. It’s important for the child to understand the reason for the limits, however. Have the child write up a contract with your input that outlines when they can have screen time, and begin the contract with a statement of purpose.
For example, a contract might read, “Because I want to become a veterinarian one day and schoolwork is important, I will limit my video games to between 3 pm and 5 pm on the weekends only.”
3. Be supportive and don’t nag.
It’s very easy to fall into the habit of nagging- it’s the knee-jerk response to seeing a behavior you don’t like. But people, in general, don’t respond well to nagging, and as soon as the nagging stops, the behavior resumes.
A better approach is to acknowledge the issue and let the child know you are there to talk about it when they are ready. Remember: the goal for changing technology overuse behaviors is not to police the child into submission. The goal is to build intrinsic motivation- that is, to develop sufficient insight to where they see technology overuse is affecting their lives in a negative way, and the child, therefore, wants to limit their online recreational activity.
4. Provide structure
It’s much easier to develop new habits if the environment is conducive to change. Parents can make changes to how their living room is set up for example. If your X-Box or other gaming system lives in a cabinet under the TV, how about pushing it to the back of the cabinet and putting a row of engaging books up front? This way the books are the first thing you look at under the TV, not the game system.
Parents can also set controls to limit game time as well, providing additional structure. Parents need to be careful to avoid a limiting-only approach. Limiting game time needs to be done in conjunction with developing the motivation to pursue other activities as well.
5. Reinforce feelings- good and bad
This one is tricky, as not only do we encourage parents to reinforce positive feelings when a child sticks to their behavioral contract, we also encourage parents to reinforce negative feelings when the child fails to live up to behavioral expectations.
If your child meets behavioral goals for the week, a small reward is in order such as choosing a restaurant to eat at the following weekend or maybe spending extra time with mom or day doing their favorite activity like fishing. Monthly goals being met might warrant a special night out or even a monetary reward. Each family should decide what is right for them and give the child something to work for.
Conversely, if a child does not meet their goal expectations, feeling a bit down about their failures is okay. In fact, it’s encouraged. This is how people naturally change- they move from a place of discomfort to comfort. It’s just as critical that if your child fails to meet their goals you discuss with them what happened and how they can improve. Taking an, “it’s okay you’ll just get it next time” approach is not the best way to change behaviors.
6. Role Model
Perhaps the best way to change behaviors in your child long term is to role model. When having a conversation with your child, give them your full attention and be sure you are not also using your iPad or phone. Don’t check your phone when driving. Don’t check devices while at dinner.
Gaming addiction help is only effective if the parents are role modeling the behaviors they want to see with their child. Children will be more inclined to read if they see a parent reading. They will be more inclined to exercise if they see a parent exercising. Find a hobby or activity your child might be interested in doing where you can spend time together in lieu of video game playing or browsing the internet. Researchers also recommend replacing fast-paced recreational games with educational games.