Video Game Intervention, social media/internet browsing intervention

Parents often seek services at Summerland Camps after attempting an unsuccessful video game intervention.  Here are the most common reasons why parents might fail and what you can do to make your video game intervention successful.

video game intervention

The best video game intervention involves the entire family and has everyone’s buy-in.

1. Give your child options.

No one likes being told what to do.  If your child has been abusing video game playing, social media, or general internet browsing in lieu of doing homework or other responsibilities, you need to step in and correct their behaviors.  Your approach is critical in ensuring the intervention is effective.  Here are two scenarios in which a parent responds very differently:

Scenario #1:  “Johnny, your report card is all Ds and Fs.  Your teacher says you have been forgetting assignments.  I know you have been staying up late playing your games and it’s affecting your school work.  That’s it, I’m throwing your TV in the garbage.”

Scenario #2:  “Johnny, your report card is all Ds and Fs.  Your teacher says you have been forgetting assignments.  I know you have been staying up late playing your games and it’s affecting your school work.  We need to figure out how to fix this problem.  Will you sit down with me and put together a schedule where you can be successful at school?”

In both scenarios, we identified the issue and expressed our concern.  However, in scenario #1, the likely response from the child is anger and resentment- and probably a yearning to play video games even more.  In scenario #2, the parent bonds with the child and together they will work out a schedule to become more successful at school.

2. Put action items in writing.

A behavioral contract is a good outcome for a video game intervention (or any other digital media intervention).  Your child should write down what they are willing to do in one section, and you should write down what you are willing to do in another section.

Make all behavioral items specific and measurable.  For example, avoid statements like, “I will try my best to limit my game playing.”  Instead, use statements like, “I will only play for 2 hours on the weekend, and only once my chores are done and my homework assignments are completed.”

3. Use both carrots and sticks

In order for a contract to work, it has to be agreed upon by both parties.  A one-sided contract isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.

In terms of rewards, think of some items that are healthy and contribute to an active lifestyle.  For example, putting off game playing in order to earn a new video game isn’t the best incentive.  This is counterproductive and puts the video game up on a pedestal as a trophy to earn.

Instead, think of rewards that are healthy and conducive to nurturing interests and relationships that are beneficial to the child.  Here are some good rewards to offer, and all are not appropriate for every family:

a. Ice cream at a local ice cream shop, or pizza at the local pizza place.

b. The child chooses a restaurant next time the family goes out for dinner.

c. The child chooses a movie to rent for family movie night.

d. The child chooses an activity with mom or dad. This might be fishing, playing a favorite board game, or going to the mall

4. Make the intervention fun!

If your family has multiple kids, why not have a little friendly competition?  Here are some ideas for family-friendly competitions and rewards that might be appropriate for each task:

a. Give each family member a pedometer or activity tracker (Fitbit, Garmin, etc). The family member with the highest step count chooses the movie on family movie night!

d. Every family member places their device on the kitchen counter. Mom and dad place their cell phones, the kids place their iPads or other devices.  The last person to use their device on a weekend gets breakfast in bed.

c. Have the kids compete with a physical activity competition using a pedometer or activity tracker. The child with the most steps gets to sit at the head of the table at dinner.

d. A different twist on the item above- all family members compete, and the family member with the least steps does the dishes!

When a Video Game Intervention Fails

Sometimes a child’s issues are beyond what we can address as parents.  In this case, it’s time to call on a professional to intervene.  If you’ve tried to intervene and failed, at (800) 867-2090 and a qualified representative will help you find the answers you need.