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Is It All Fun and Games?

Published in Pediatrics, For the Health of It Author: Kelly Woods,APRN,CNP

Colder temperatures are on the way and your child might start turning to indoor activities like video games to hold their attention.

Many parents express concerns about gaming in their child’s life. They wish their children would spend less time interacting with screens and more time working on developing relationships, homework, physical activity and experiencing the real world.

Advances in technology have made video games increasingly lifelike. The virtual world has become very appealing, exhilarating, fast-paced and interactive. A high-speed Internet connection allows you to play with other gamers from around the globe. While video games may bring kids and adults together, even across generations, they also can be addictive.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, signs that the gaming has become unhealthy include:

  • obsession with gaming, becoming sad, irritable or anxious when is gaming is taken away
  • wanting more and more time with the game, unable to cut down
  • no longer interested in other activities that used to be fun
  • lying about how much time is spent gaming
  • using gaming to relieve a bad mood

Negative risks associated with video games include:

  • attention deficit
  • increased risk taking
  • obesity
  • increased aggression or agitation
  • desensitization
  • lack of motivation
  • preoccupation with gaming
  • antisocial behaviors

Like many things in life, seeking balance is key to good health. As parents, consider these questions, discuss them and then later talk about your concerns with your child and what changes you think need to be made and why.

  • What kind of games is your child playing? Is the game violent? Are characters harming others or engaging in antisocial behavior? Is this a game you want to allow in your house or let your child play at a friend’s house?
  • How does the amount of time your child spends on video games compare to the amount of time she/he spends on homework; household chores; with friends, family and significant others or at work? Are any of these areas suffering because of the time spent gaming. Your child may need your help setting priorities.
  • Will your child quit when asked suddenly, or does s/he stop playing in a reasonable amount of time without prompting? Does your child get angry if you try to limit the gaming or ask question about his or her gaming habits?

It is your job as a parent to know what kind of games your child is playing, with who and for how long. Sit and watch your child play. Play the game yourself. Read reviews on the games. Ask your child who he or she is playing with. A good rule to follow is that your child should only be playing games with people you know.

Remember, you are the parent. If you are not comfortable with what your child is playing or how much time is being spent playing, set limits and rules. Even if your child gets upset, stay strong. He or she only has one childhood and adolescence — and an entire future ahead.