There are indeed potential benefits associated with playing video games. However, too much time playing video games can have negative effects on a child's life. Parents of children and young adults who spend too much time playing video games know how true this can be, with consequences ranging from physical pain to mental health challenges and more.
So, how do you motivate a child who spends too much time on games to engage in other activities?
In this article, we'll talk about reasons for excessive video game use and ways to help a child reduce time spent on games, such as identifying video game addiction, using Joon to help, and involving kids in other interests.
Why Won't My Child Stop Playing Video Games?
Most children like video games, but what causes excessive playing? Most kids like to play video games, but some are at a significantly higher risk of excessive video game use.
Specifically, kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are known to have a higher likelihood of video game addiction. Video game addiction is also correlated with mental health problems such as anxiety disorders and depression. Playing video games lights up the "reward center" in the brain, which makes kids, teens, and adults want to play more.
It is also relevant to note that many games are designed to drive people to play more. A game may punish players for not logging into the game, or beating the game might require extensive hours of gameplay.
So, in a world where kids will generally have access to video games regardless (e.g., at friends' houses), what exactly can you do?
Motivating Your Child To Stop Playing Video Games
While you don't need to cut your child's access to video games off entirely or for good, it is important to help your child get to a healthy place and strike a balance. Here are some tips parents of kids who face excessive video gaming can use to help them reduce gameplay effectively.
Establish a set amount of screen time
Set limits on your child's screen time. Make sure the limits you set are specific. In other words, don't say they can play for "a few hours" per day. Instead, be clear about when the gameplay is and isn't allowed. This may differ on weekends vs. school days, so consider this and other relevant factors before you solidify and verbalize limits to a child.
Guidelines encourage parents of kids ages 6+ to help kids build healthy habits, remove screens during family dinners, and stop using technology 30-60 minutes before bedtime. Kids who play games to the extent that they lose interest in real-life activities may benefit from the use of parental controls that stop the game when it's not time to play.
It can be hard to restrict a child's gaming time, but parents must stick to limits firmly. If a child breaks the rules, follow through with any consequences you set. Thankfully, there are things parents can do to make reducing game time easier, even with a child who is very resistant to it.
Using Joon is an excellent way to balance your child's online and offline activities. Joon is a to-do app and game geared toward kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and related conditions ages 6-12+. Here's how it works:
Parents sign up with Joon Parent App and create a task list for their kids. Children connect with a separate app called Joon Pet Game. When a child completes the tasks their parent assigns, they get virtual rewards, which allow them to take care of a pet and move forward in the game. This motivates children to fulfill routines and obligations such as homework, chores, and after-school activities while aiding self-control, independence, and confidence.
90% of kids who use Joon complete all their tasks, and many parents say it's improved their parent-child relationship. Even better, the app is backed by professionals like occupational therapists, teachers, and child psychologists.
Identify when there's an addiction
If it seems that your child has veered into the territory of video game obsession, it may be worthwhile to look into the possibility that they have a video game addiction. Video game addiction is real and is formally identified as Gaming Disorder. It can occur in those who play any kind of technology-reliant game, including computer games or online games.
Gaming Disorder is marked by patterns of maladaptive gaming behavior, including but not necessarily limited to the following signs:
- Impaired control over gaming behavior (one may have trouble stopping or limiting video game use even if they want to)
- Escalation or continuation of gaming despite negative consequences (such as negative effects on interpersonal relationships, eye strain, or body aches)
- Prioritizing video games over real-life activities and responsibilities (e.g., homework, opting to play games rather than spend time with friends in person)
- Emotional withdrawals when one's not allowed to play video games
If this sounds like your child, looking for a mental health professional who can help is ideal. Similarly, if what you try at home to help your child doesn't work, it could be that additional support is the way to go.
Encourage other activities and hobbies
One of the very best things a parent can do to reduce time spent playing video games or time online is to schedule other activities. Many parents focus too much on getting their child to reduce video game time and not enough on what to replace it with. If kids aren't occupied, sticking to healthy limits will be much harder.
Taking lessons to learn how to play a musical instrument, physically active hobbies like sports, or free and low-cost local activities, clubs, or classes (e.g., art or cooking classes) are all fantastic options.
Have family game time
Family time is another great way to occupy a child and help them stick to their screen time limit. Family game nights where family members get together and play board games or card games (rather than digital games) not only encourage bonding but also serve as an engaging distraction from online activities.
Reduce video game usage slowly
It might be tempting to cut a child's ability to play video games off entirely and all at once. However, a slow reduction in video game play paired with changes to a child's routine or schedule is usually the best way to approach the transition. Rules like "you can't play video games during meals and snack time, during homework, or for an hour before bed" (help them build a new nighttime routine to replace it) are reasonable, positive first steps that'll lead to a significant reduction in video game play.
Make a reward system
Using a reward system can help encourage kids to follow screen time rules. For younger children, small, simple rewards can work. For older children and young adults, token systems that allow them to build up to a bigger reward (like a concert ticket, new shoes, or a new hair color) are usually best. Get your child's input on what would be most motivating for them. The key here is to make sure that they really want the reward!
Set up transition time
Some kids have trouble moving from one activity to another, and many kids who get fixated on games or other electronic media use face distress when it's time to put it down if they don't want to. Account for this with time to transition from one activity to another, letting your child move through feelings of distress. Emotional withdrawals are very common in kids who have an addiction to video gaming, and it can hurt to see, but don't give in.
Spend time outside together
Outdoor activities are a great opportunity for physical activity, and time spent outdoors is known for its mood-boosting effects. Plan family outings outdoors, like family hikes or other fun activities, such as sports or going to the park (for kids in the right age group). It can be helpful to encourage the whole family to go completely or mostly screen-free during these activities.
While video games aren't all bad, excessive video gaming can be harmful to one's physical and mental health, academic progress, and so on. If your child's behavior surrounding video game play is a cause for concern, there are things you can do to help. Setting and sticking to screen time limits, identifying whether they could be experiencing an addiction that requires more support, and involving kids in other activities or creating a schedule with non-tech activities can help. If children display symptoms of Gaming Disorder or experience another mental health concern, working with a professional can be crucial.