By Dr. Brent Conrad - Author of "How to Help Children Addicted to Video Games - A Guide for Parents" (instantly download today and get free email support)
Today, almost all children play video games in one form of another (91% to be exact in this particular study). These games are played on computers, game consoles, cell phones, and handheld devices. Everywhere you find children you will also find computer games, and the fascination with electronic entertainments are almost as popular with girls as compared to boys.
Although most parents would be quite happy if their child's computer gaming was limited to educational programs, the reality is that the computer games children play are primarily for pure entertainment, not for education.
Keep in mind that when children play age-appropriate computer games in moderation the research generally indicates that little (if any) harm comes from this.
However, there are some children who play excessively, who refuse to do anything else, and who make gaming the number one priority in their lives. These children may be addicted to computer games and their parents are rightfully worried about this problem (see TechAddiction's huge summary article "Child Video Game Addiction - Facts and Solutions).
For children addicted to computer games, what can parents do to stop the addiction and get their kids back?
Ten Tips For Parents Who Have Children Addicted To Computer Games
1. Computer games should only be allowed after children have taken care of other responsibilities. For example, parents are strongly advised to set a rule that video games can only be played after homework has been completed (and completed with effort).
2. To prevent computer addiction from taking hold and to regain control after it has been established, computer games should be played no more than one or two hours per day - especially during the school year. Specific age-appropriate guidelines and recommendations can be found in the downloadable book "How To Help Children Addicted to Video Games".
3. Children addicted to computer games will happily play for hours at a time. Although this can provide valuable free time for busy moms and dads, parents need to make sure that computer games are not their child's primary activity or form of entertainment. Decades ago, parents were warned about using television as a babysitter and the same advice now applies to computer games. It is absolutely critical to set and enforce firm daily limits as described in point # 2 above.
4. Access to computer games should be viewed as an earned privilege, not an automatic right.
5. Regardless of who "pays" for the computer game, parents should always have final approval of any game that enters the home. Sometimes parents believe that if the child has earned his or her money (or even if it is an allowance) they should be free to spend it on whatever they like. Incorrect. Children addicted to computer games very often prefer the more mature games (violent first person shooters, online role playing games) that should have never entered the home in the first place. Parents should become very family with ESRB ratings and prescreen all potential purchases. Doing so would almost certainly reduce the number of children addicted to computer games.
6. Related to the last point, if parents have children addicted to computer games, it is not enough to just know the ESRB rating of a potential game purchase. Traditional reviews for virtually any computer game can be found here and games reviews and buying advice specifically for parents can be found at Common Sense Media.
7. If it is possible to do so, dedicate one computer for homework only and one for gaming (if this is still permitted in moderation according to your rules). On the work computer, there should be no games installed, social networking sites like Facebook should be blocked, and gaming websites cannot be accessed. Therefore, when your child is using this computer, you can be reasonable confident that he / she is working and not spending time playing computer games.
8. Keep computers and consoles out of a child's bedroom. It is much easier to limit computer gaming (and monitor online activity) if computers are in open spaces or family rooms. To help children addicted to computer games this is perhaps the very first step parents should take.
9. One helpful tool for dealing with children addicted to computer games is the "Parental Control" settings that are present on all modern game consoles. These password protected options usually allow parents to control what their children play and how much time is allotted. On the PC side, access to specific games as well as specific time limits can be set via 3rd party software solutions. Make sure you learn how to set these options - they can be very helpful for helping children addicted to computer games.
10. Consider a ban on MMO or MMORGP games (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games) in your home. Even if the ESRB rating is within your child's age range, these games are thought to have a much higher risk for addiction than other genres and should not be purchased if you worry about your child becoming addicted. See "Why Are Video Games Addictive?" for more information.
Ultimately, parents (and no one else) have to take responsibility for making sure that children practice healthy computer gaming and online habits. Teens and children addicted to computer game cannot be expected to identify this problem themselves and set reasonable limits without the help of parents. Although excessive video gaming can be difficult to stop, with the right approach computer game addiction is very treatable.
BONUS # 2
Consistency, consistency, consistency is a critical element for effective parenting. Parental words and promises must always match parental actions. If you set a daily limit, it must be enforced. If you have outlined punishments or consequences for ignoring your rules, you must follow through with them. Likewise, promised rewards (other than money or more computer games) for following rules should be honored. For much more on exactly how to set and enforce healthy limits for children addicted to computer games download the parent's step-by-step guide to stopping computer game addiction.
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