While video games can be addictive and many parents believe that their kids are addicted to video games, fortunately, most are not! These kids may show a few of the classic signs of addiction such as a preoccupation with video games and a loss of interest in previous hobbies and activities, but most kids do not show the more severe symptoms seen in a true addiction and do NOT require placement in a video game rehab center. These behaviors, that mimic addiction, may be more common in kids diagnosed with ADHD, Autism, Learning Disabilities, Executive Functioning problems, Anxiety, or Depression as psychiatric issues tend to exacerbate our use of the term “Addiction”. However, many kids do become irritable, moody, and angry when they are not allowed to play their games. Don’t worry too much about this, just keep working to insure that your child has a healthy Play Diet, in which there is a good balance of physical, social, creative, and unstructured play in addition to the digital play they so much enjoy.
Video game play is highly engaging, and game publishers have learned how to keep kids (and adults) playing nonstop. Your job as a parent is to help your child regulate his screen time and video-game play with other activities. Often the most difficult issues revolve around transitioning from video-game and screen time to other activities, as it’s at this juncture when most arguments and disruptive behavior occur. Concerns about video-game addiction become less problematic when parents can master these transition periods. This can occur simply by having conversations where parents listen to kids about their interests in technology. However, it is also sometimes important to help your child transition from screen time to other activities.
Here are five tips to help a child transition from video games:
- Switch to another activity that you child loves. Have a different activity ready (not homework) that your child likes to do such as eating, playing a board game, or going outdoors.
- Go to another screen-time activity that is educational. Transition to a program such as IXL math, Brainpop, or Scratch that has some clear educational goals.
- Have a parent/child activity ready that your child enjoys such as cooking dinner together, reading, going for a walk, or playing with a pet.
- Have a fun way to give a 5-or 10-minute warning that entertains the child and helps him to recognize that something positive will happen after game play such as a snack.
- Ask the child to tell you what makes it so difficult to transition and what he can do about it before even starting to play.