For many, it’s a familiar weeknight sight: your child is sitting in front of a screen, unresponsive and wholly engrossed in a video game for the umpteenth hour in a row. While some video game usage can be OK – in fact, there is evidence that some video game usage can be great for hand-eye coordination and problem-solving skills – dependence upon these games can negatively affect a child.
Like other addictions, video game dependency can result in emotional detachment, diverted attention and preoccupation, restlessness and irritability.It can also have negative physical effects, like headaches and migraines, carpal tunnel syndrome and neglected hygiene. If your child shows signs of video game dependency, it’s time to start intervening, and this article will go through effective ways to do that.
At its root, video game addiction can be seen as a behavioural issue, and so it’s best to seek out professional counselling services for kids if you think your child might be showing signs of dependency. A counsellor can help establish rules and routines, and work on your child’s compliance, as well as work on time management skills. Tearing a child apart from their video games can also have incidental consequences – for instance, your child might resent you for taking their game time away, which could foment into a larger conflict. Having a counsellor there to mitigate and work out these sorts of conflicts will be very helpful on the road to healthy recovery.
This is where the video games are, and this is where your room is – they are two separate places. Compartmentalizing your child’s video game usage – that is, ensuring that it takes place in a room separate from their own, to which they are allowed access only when permission is given – is very important. Video game time should be a special thing, but having it in their own room can devalue and normalize it. Try setting up a schedule that includes video game time, or offer video game time as a reward. You could even mix those two ideas, and reward them with more video game time at the end of a week for adhering to the schedule. The point is that this time should be sectioned and apportioned, rather than freewheeling and up to them to decide.
Offering Exciting Alternatives
Video games are thrilling – they trigger the same “feel good” parts of the brain as substance addicts. The task, then, in taking them away, is ensuring that they are replaced with other, healthier activities. Enrolling your child in a sport, or encouraging them to take up a hands-on hobby can help divert their attention away from games and towards more productive, potentially physically healthy activities. This might be a process of working out exactly what they like to do, so don’t expect them to take to the first alternative they try. Martial arts, team sports, model building and art are all wonderful activities that you could try.
Video games, as with many things, are best in moderation. Seeing a child counsellor, setting up a schedule and a separate room, and offering them healthy alternatives are all great ways of curbing your child’s video game dependency.