It seems like kids today are born with iPads attached to their hips. Children are exposed to technology at increasingly younger ages. An afternoon spent building a whole new world in Minecraft is the modern version of building a fort in the woods.
It's natural for parents to be worried about their child's gaming habit. After all, it's been engrained in our brains that gaming is a bad habit.
But is gaming really as bad as we've been led to believe? How do we get our kids to put down the controllers and get outside?
Accept that Gaming is Fun for Kids – And Not Necessarily Bad for Their Development
Andrew K. Przybylski, Phd. conducted a study that was published in Pediatrics: The Official Journal Of The American Academy of Pediatrics that looked at the effects of gaming on kids.
In some cases, he found that gaming was actually beneficial for kids.
According to the study, "Compared with non-players, children who typically invest less than one-third of their daily free time showed higher levels of prosocial behavior and life satisfaction and lower levels of conduct problems, hyperactivity, peer problems, and emotional symptom."
His findings showed that gaming really isn't any different than any other form of imaginative play. I think we can all agree that play is important – especially when our kids can really use their imaginations.
Accept that gaming is fun for kids, and it may even be beneficial. In many ways, video games can take kids deeper into their imaginations than just about any other form of play. The worlds and stories are immersive and easy to get lost in.
While some video game play is beneficial, Przybylski's study found that too much play is a bad thing. Children who spent more than half of their daily free time playing video games "showed more negative adjustment."
That's where we, as parents, step in and manage the situation. If your child is spending more time in his gaming chair and less time outside in the yard, it may be time to lay down some new rules.
Limiting Screen Time and Setting Consequences
Limiting your child's gaming time will help him enjoy the benefits of gaming without going overboard. There are a few ways to go about limiting screen time, and there's no right or wrong way to do it.
Some parents prefer to set a policy and stick to it. Maybe the kids can only play for two hours on the weekends (Friday, Saturday and Sunday). If your kids have a hard time getting their chores and homework done, gaming during the week may not be a good option. Other parents find that it works best to allow 30-40 minutes each day of the week.
Find a schedule and limit that will work for you and your lifestyle.
If you take this approach, there can be no negotiations and no exceptions. The kids can't trade in their Sunday hours to get more screen time on Saturday, for example. The rules are the rules.
Consider writing your policy on a whiteboard and hanging the board in a place where everyone can see it.
Another approach is to have your kids earn their screen time. Instead of allowance, they can earn gaming time by completing chores and tasks. Charts and stickers can be used to track completed chores and tally up gaming time.
Once you have a policy in place, consider counterbalancing gaming time with time outdoors. Spending time in nature stimulates all the senses.