Many parents find that taking a negative approach to regulating their kids’ gaming and internet use is likely to backfire. So what’s a parent to do?
It helps to arm your kid with strategies to help them avoid the pitfalls of excessive gaming and strengthen them against the risk of gaming addiction. These strategies are also great for helping them grow up to be mentally and physically healthy, well-adjusted adults. And as it turns out, they tend to be more effective.
Why Negative Tactics Don’t Work
It’s a common belief among parents of non-gaming-addicted children that changing your kids’ behaviour is as easy as taking away their devices. But it’s not that simple. Many parents of severely addicted gamers fear their kids’ aggressive behaviour if they were to suddenly restrict their access – and even if the outcome isn’t that extreme, it’s not likely to be successful.
Says parent Chrissy Stillwell about her attempt to hide her son’s iPad: “This was not a sustainable approach. It didn’t make the desire for video games go away. If anything, the deprivation increased the appetite. It made everybody feel bad.”
A better approach is to have an overall strategy around video game use that includes a policy on screen time and encouragement of other positive aspects of your child’s life, and sticking to it. If you’re feeling lost as to how to go about this, consider consulting gaming addiction expert or gaming addiction-specialised counsellor.
The Importance of Resiliency
Adolescence and young adulthood is an incredibly important phase of development. According to the World Health Organisation, “Half of all mental illnesses begin by the age of 14 and three-quarters by mid-20s… If untreated, these conditions severely influence children’s development, their educational attainments and their potential to live fulfilling and productive lives.”
Today’s youth face numerous obstacles to mental health, many of which are internet-based. Knowing this, it’s important that we provide them with the tools they need to successfully navigate the digital world while keeping their compulsions in check. At the end of the day, young adults should have avenues for adapting to their life circumstances and handling their problems without resorting to gaming as an escape.
Helping your child cultivate impulse control doesn’t just mean they’ll game less – it also has rewarding outcomes for their life overall. Young people who have better self-control and ability to manage stress enjoy more appreciation from their peers, more meaningful relationships with their communities, better decision-making ability and lower risk of alcoholism and drug addiction.
Simple Techniques for Helping Your Kids Avoid Gaming Addiction
Raising kids who are independent, adaptable and confident starts with a holistic approach to their overall health. Here are some techniques for encouraging positive behaviour that you can try at home:
Replace Gaming with Constructive Activities
Whether or not gaming appeals to you personally, it holds a lot of importance for your kid. When thinking about activities that will sustainably stand in for gaming, it helps to recognise what needs they’re currently meeting with gaming:
Video games are designed to give gamers a sense of purpose and achievement. They can accomplish this in the real world by having a larger goal to work towards or picking up an interesting new hobby and setting goals around it.
Online gaming also gives kids a change to take a break from the outside world. Healthier ways of doing this might include playing a sport they like, reading, listening to podcasts or talking to friends.
Leaving the world of multi-player gaming means leaving behind some gaming friends – when this happens, it’s extremely important to nurture real-life relationships. Meet-ups, clubs, groups, sports, spending time with family and going out with friends are great ways to do this.
Gaming withdrawals often entail an intense sense of boredom. It’s a good idea to choose multiple activities that fulfil each of these categories to help stave off discomfort until the withdrawal period passes, which takes about three weeks.
Grow Their Awareness
Mindfulness practice takes away much of the anxiety that kids are self-soothing with gaming. In an overstimulated world, knowing how to take a quiet minute to yourself to experience the present moment is an incredibly important skill. Studies show that mindfulness helps us feel more connected, more compassionate and more internally at peace.
Meditation doesn’t have to entail sitting for long hours. Your child can experiment with a variety of meditations that may be better for their learning style, such as guided imagery, music meditation, walking meditation and tai chi.
Reframe Challenges and Instil Positive Beliefs
A large part of being a well-balanced adult entails viewing our challenges as learning opportunities. We all suffer, and we all make mistakes – learning healthy attitudes towards less-than-ideal situations starts when we’re young. Use your child’s instances of struggle as teaching moments, and help them practice forgiveness for themselves and others. Eventually, this will translate into their higher awareness.
In the larger picture, we should always be teaching our kids how to be kind to themselves, help others, form loving friendships and be grateful for what they have. These practices don’t just make the world a better place; they also help your child strengthen their emotional resiliency.
Emphasize Good Nutrition
The foods your child eats play a huge role in how they feel. Excessive gaming depletes their mental and physical strength – in fact, malnutrition is a common side-effect of severe gaming addiction.
Dieticians recommend a balanced diet that includes plenty of plant-based foods: vegetables, fruits, grains, seeds and nuts. This doesn’t mean your child has to be vegetarian, but they should pay attention to what kinds and quantities of foods they’re eating. Inflammation from food allergies can also affect their mental state, so make sure your child isn’t regularly consuming foods that have an adverse effect on them.
Physical activity boosts our endorphins, helping us emotionally self-regulate. Kids who get regular exercise experience improved focus in school, less stress and a better mood overall. The US Department of Human Services recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week and 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise per week.
Get Professional Help
If you’re at a loss as to how to get your child to stop gaming, don’t worry – you’re not alone. The Edge young men’s programme has partnered with Game Quitters, the world’s largest online gaming addiction help community, to deliver a gaming addiction treatment programme designed especially for young men. Our programme includes a digital detox, individual and group counselling to help your child reduce their compulsions to play and meditation training to give them techniques for mindful internet use.
Contact us today to learn how we can help.