Kids playing video games is no new thing.
Even I, who, according to my kids is a dinosaur who knows nothing, used to play Pacman and Space Invaders.
In a pair of roller disco boots, I might add.
So why are parents becoming more and more anxious and stressed out over the fact that their kids are spending more time on the screen and less time interacting with the people around them?
Kids Playing Video Games. An Age-Old Parental Concern
I am a parent of two kids. My son is eighteen going on ten, and my daughter is fifteen going on twenty-three.
I have homeschooled my kids for the past nine years.
Our homeschooling schedule had written into it that Friday was a no lesson day, which meant that on this day my kids got to stay at home with their grandma while I met up with friends for some ‘me’ time.
Every Friday morning, when my kids were about nine and twelve, I would meet up with two friends, both of whom had boys of a similar age to mine.
And every week, without fail, we would all sit and cry to each other about the same thing.
The amount of time our kids were spending playing video games.
Fast forward seven years.
My friends and I still meet up for a weekly coffee, but these days we talk about how much rent we should charge our kids, how night sweats are plaguing our sleep and lots of other fascinating stuff like that.
Does Playing Video Games Fry Kid’s Brains?
My favourite retaliation when my son tried to convince me to let him have ‘just five more minutes’ on a game was the threat that he would end up with no brain cells.
I know. Who would’ve guessed? Me. A scientist.
It’s remarkable what you learn at Mummy and toddler coffee mornings when you stay behind to help clean up.
Had I done my research and educated myself a little further than a digestive biscuit and a cup of cheap nescafé I would have learned the following:
- Some studies have found that kids who play video games show improvements in several types of attention, such as sustained attention or selective attention.
- According to this report, there is emerging research that finds no link between violent games and adverse outcomes, such as reduced empathy, aggression and depression.
How many times have you said “get off that screen! You’ll be blind by the time you are 30.”
Ok then, maybe it’s just me that liked to threaten her kids with horrific ailments, but for those of you who have, it seems that we might have been wrong.
- First-person, action-packed video games where the player spends their time aiming at bad guys, zombies, or monsters – have been found to enhance how well our kids see.
- And according to this study, one hour of playing video games a day can also increase the brain’s ability to focus.
More Positives Around Kids Playing Video Games
Parent approved video games played in moderation can help your kids in several other ways.
- Develop certain life skills
- Teach problem-solving skills
- Teach kids geography, culture and history
- Playing video games can help kids make friends
- Gives kids who aren’t good at sports a chance to be competitive and excel
- Certain games spark creativity
- Social and communication skills
So Why Do Parents Stress About Their Kids Playing Video Games? (A Private Message From Me).
Although evidence that relates positively to gaming gives us parents a little comfort these facts and figures still don’t alleviate the stress that we feel when our kid walks away from the dinner table, switches on the button and reaches for the console.
6 Reasons Why Parents Stress Over Their Kids Gaming Habits
Lets’ face it, three hours spent in front of the screen could be spent far more productively. There’s homework, there’s the room that needs tidying, there’s granny to phone.
Lots of these video games make their money through upsells.
If a kid thinks that by wearing a shiny purple suit he’ll not only look far cooler than his peers but will be able to fight the aliens better, then that child will whine and plead until the parent gets the credit card out and coughs up.
I am sure that I am not the only parent in the world to hear an older child snap angrily at a younger sibling who walks in front of the screen while they are trying to play a game.
It’s stereotypical I know, but we have all seen (and feared) the image of the overweight gamer kid slumped in front of the screen scoffing unhealthy snacks.
Which parent wouldn’t prefer to see their child walk through the door with a sweaty face after competing in some outside sports game? (Preferably with an A+ report card in hand).
Self Doubt and Uncertainty
As parents, we are laden with the feeling of guilt that we are never good enough. We tell ourselves that whatever we do if our kids re unhappy in life then it will be because of what we did and didn’t. (Stepping in as an empathetic parent here – read one for two of these self-love quotes each morning – they work wonders for your self-esteem).
If something that we know little about threatens our world view, our perspective and our identity, then we tend to view that as a threat to our psychological safety.
This threat causes a cascade of self-protection thoughts (I should make it stop), emotions (crying, anger and rage) and actions (removing the device/ turning off the internet/ threatening to tell Dad) as we would in times of physical threat.
Remember Tuvok? He was a character in Star Trek, and he said, “We often fear what we do not understand; our best defence is knowledge.”
Click here to learn how you can educate yourself on the world of your child’s online gaming.
Kid’s Who Become Addicted To Playing Video Games
Isn’t this just every parent’s dread?
I know it was mine.
And while we are comforted with the fact that our children may have super-vision because they have played Hero for the last two hours, no parent wants to admit that they have let their child’s gaming habit get so far out of control that the activity is now an addiction.
Remember, too much of anything is not good.
In the same way that too much exercise can be bad for your muscles, or too much water can affect your health, playing video games in excess can be bad for your child’s brain.
If your child is not in control of his or her gaming habits, then it is time to step in and make changes.
Don’t ever forget. You are the parent. What you say goes – regardless of how uncomfortable implementing the rules might be.
If the pull of a gaming world is so great that your child is willing to ignore schoolwork, friends and family then take charge and cut back on gaming time.
Emotional Signs of Video Game addiction
- restlessness or irritability when unable to play
- Lying to friends and family about the amount of time spent playing video games
- Increased isolation from friends who do not play the same video games
Physical Signs of Video Game Addiction
- Fatigue. Lack of motivation to do anything other than play games
- Mood swings
- Lack of personal hygiene
Ways To Prevent Gaming Your Child’s From Getting Out Of Hand
Most studies nowadays consider that about 30–40 min of game playing every day to be the ideal schedule.
As a parent of a teenage boy, I know that this is far easier to read than it is to implement.
But if parents try to set firm family rules and do their best to stick to them, the chances of your child’s gaming getting out of hand are slim.
Consider these suggestions that will help gaming be a minor (but enjoyable) part of your child’s day rather than taking it over.
- Set time limits for your child to play video games.
- Use a visual screen time chart so that everyone in the family is aware of limits and expectations.
- Keep phones, laptops and any other devices out of your child’s bedroom at night.
- Try to find an everyday activity that the whole family will enjoy doing together. Playing a board game, getting into the park for some frisbee golf, or indulging in a 10 part TV series together (yes, I know it’s still a screen, but it worked for us!)
Summing Up Kids Playing Video Games
Look. Parents. I am not here to make you feel bad. Or to convince you that your child has a gaming problem and it’s all your fault.
Far from it. I have been where you are now, and I know what it feels like to cry in the bathroom – convincing yourself that your child playing video games is going to ruin their lives and undo all the hard work you have put into raising that beautiful little person.
This post is to help you. To give you the increased knowledge (and power) and to make you feel more at ease when your child is gaming.
Video Games Are Very Much Part Of Todays Culture. You are not alone.
Three-quarters of all Americans have at least one gamer in their household, and over eight million UK families have video consoles in their home.
44% of parents in the UK educate themselves on the most popular video games in an attempt to impress their kids!
(What we talked about on this week’s podcast)
In this week’s podcast episode me, Brian (my husband) and Sonny (my teenage son) talked on all things concerning kids and gaming. Including:
The effects of too much gaming
What the best (and the worst) games were for kids
How parents can regulate a child’s gaming habit
What happens when an adult (*hint* the dad) starts to become addicted to gaming
The link for the in-depth audio course made JUST for parents who don’t understand their kid’s gaming habit is here.
Listen To This Week’s Podcast Episode On How Kid’s Playing Video Games Impacts The Family
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Did You Enjoy Our Podcast on Kids & Gaming?
We’d love to know what you think about this week’s show and if there is anything you would like to know further so that we can include it in our question time next week.
If you know of someone who has kids that play video games and have similar worries to you, then please share this podcast episode and post with them!