Video and computer games have a huge fan following among children and youngsters nowadays. Parents find it quite befuddling to deal with this addiction and try to find out reasons behind this fanatical devotion to video and computer games.
Impact of Video Games on Children
More and more children have taken to video games over the world. The figures are especially alarming in the U.S. In a CBN report by guest writer Cheryl Black titled, “Kids Addicted to Gaming,” Black states that, “According to the “National Institute of Media and the Family, 92 percent of the children in America, ages 2-17, play video games.”
More researchers are coming up with studies that point out that this video gaming addiction is gradually taking over all aspects of a kid’s life.
In her April 20, 2009 Washington Post article, “Study Finds Some Youths ‘Addicted’ to Video Games,” Washington Post staff writer, Donna St. George refers to a research conducted by psychologist and assistant professor, Douglas Gentile from Iowa State University.
As per Douglas Gentile’s research, around 8.5 percent of American youngsters (aged 8-18) play video games and tend to display “multiple signs of behavioral addiction.”
Gentile also states that some kids play in a manner that the addiction goes “out of balance.” This, he believes, is damaging and affecting several areas of their lives subsequently.
Why are Video Games Addicting
Parents get puzzled on seeing their child’s attachment to virtual games. It often becomes difficult to understand what makes these games so interesting for them.
In a May 15, 2010 The Parent Report website article, “Video Game Addiction,” media literacy specialist, Dr. Charles Ungerleider points out some reasons for this addiction.
According to him, these games are “very compelling with increasing complexity.” Hence it draws children’s attention swiftly.
In the same article, Professor of Computer Science, Maria Klavee states that video games attract children because they provide “real opportunities for puzzle solving, strategic and critical thinking.” But she also warns that these games must be played in moderation.
Getting Over the Addiction
It is essential that parents interrupt this habit before it turns into an addiction. The first step towards moderation is to limit the hours spent before the computer or video game console.
Cheryl Black states in the CBN report “Kids Addicted to Gaming” that parents can start off by fixing a 2-hour limit for children who play for hours together. It is essential to engage children in other activities in between video gaming, so that they do not get addicted.
Sometimes children might not want to listen to their parents’ advice and might continue playing even after their prescribed time limit is over. In such cases, parents can utilize a device called ‘Time Scout’ that helps to set the time duration for a game. Once the stipulated time-limit expires, the power shuts off automatically and the child is compelled to stop playing.
It is also important to divert a child’s interest towards other activities. For instance, parents can make a list of things that a child can do in his or her spare time. Reading, solving crosswords, puzzles and writing are some activities that children can practice indoors.
Outdoor activities like riding bikes, skating, football and basketball are even more essential. It helps if a child has other peers around him or her who like to engage in outdoor sports as well. In a team, a child feels more interested in the activity.
Video game addiction is a tedious habit to get rid of. However, it is a parent’s responsibility to see to it that children do not get so attached to the virtual world that they lose track of the real world around them.
Having Fun with Family Time
Many tweens are addicted to high-tech gadgets like video games, and turning in their outdoor play time for television shows and computer games. There also seems to be a competition among this age group as to who gets the latest and greatest stuff first. While some of these activities can be challenging, and maybe even educational, too much of a good thing can be bad. Sadly, most of the games and television shows tweens are involved with are not good for them in any way, shape, or form.
Here’s a scary fact:
“Lots of TV watching and video game playing has been associated with a range of problems: poor grades, obesity, distractibility, aggression, hyperactivity, and increased parent-child conflicts.” (The Everything Tween Book)
So, how do you convince your child that spending some quality time with family is just as much fun as video games and horror films? Here are some ideas that just might do the trick:
- Stock up on board games that have won awards such as the Parent’s Choice Award or have been designated with the Parent’s Seal of Approval. These games are likely great for encouraging brain power, imagination, and fun. Family game nights are a lot of fun for everyone.
- Consider getting your tween a pet. Dog ownership is a great motivator to get your child outside and develop a lasting friendship that will be hard to break. And, Fido will love everyone else in the family, too.
- Develop a hobby based on something that interests your tween. Don’t ask if she wants to start a hobby, because more than likely the answer will be no. Instead, buy things like heart-shaped or flower stamps, a stamp album, and other accessories needed to start a stamp collection, and surprise her with it one day.
- Think about joining a family fitness center where you can go as a family to workout, swim, and play sports together.
- Have a Family Outing Night. Play putt-putt golf. Plan a night with the go-karts. Take in a movie every once in a while (as a family). Give the whole family a day to look forward to when you all know something fun is around the corner.
It all boils down to using imagination and honing in on your child’s interests. There are lots of ways to keep your tween healthy and active, and have fun doing it.
Remember to set limits on the amount of time your tween gets to play high-tech gadgets and monitor what they are playing or watching. Parental involvement is the key to giving a child a well-balanced life.