In part 1 of this series, we looked at how to set healthy expectations for video game usage that fits with the needs of your child and family.
In part 2, we examined the world of online gaming and ways parents can help their children to stay safe while having fun with online games.
Today, part 3 will explore how to help you and your child to establish the right gaming routine that makes sense for your child and family.
Establishing the Right Gaming Routine for Your Family
Families may have various rules regarding moderation, such as engaging in gaming only on the weekends when parents are there to supervise, or establishing a weekly video game night in which the entire family games together to aide in the value that the video game experience provides.
Establishing Time Limits
To limit game time, some parents choose to utilize timers. If you decide to set timers to limit time spent on gaming systems or online, be sure to talk with your child about the game they are playing to establish the right timing to avoid a timer causing more disruption to the household.
Some games may not be completed in the small time allotted or online games may be negatively impacted by a player leaving before the match or round is completed. Talk through the expectations for time before your child begins the game to arrive at an agreement whenever setting timers, to avoid placing your child in a very frustrating experience (and likewise, frustrating for you and the rest of the family).
In addition, your child may face social consequences to leaving games early, which is important for parents to consider when setting these limits.
Other considerations for setting time limits include ensuring that your child is able to make it to a save point to save their current progress. Ask your child directly how long it will take during their current game to get to a save point to show respect for what they have accomplished, instead of rushing them out of the game.
You would not like for your last 30 minutes of work to be lost; neither do they, yet this is something that adults unwittingly ask children to do regularly with video games and online gaming.
Setting Expectations for When to Access Gaming Systems
Parents should establish expectations for when a child can and cannot access video games, including setting limits on video game usage as a coping mechanism.
For example, does your child know your expectation regarding video games at night when they are having difficulty sleeping?
When feeling frustrated and needing to check-out from stress related to homework or conflict with a sibling, are they allowed to use gaming as a coping mechanism?
Does your family have a policy regarding when video games have to be turned off for the evening, or how early your child can access them in the morning?
Video games, along with various screen activity, can impact sleep, physical and mental health, as well as cognitive development. Children can still lack the impulse control to know when screens are allowed and when it is best to say “no,” so they will need an adult’s help to learn how to regulate their gaming time.
Establishing healthy expectations for when gaming systems can be accessed helps children to develop skills in setting their own healthy limits related to access in the future. It is best to have these conversation early and often to assist with your child’s understanding of the expectations within your household.
Rachel Thyberg, CSW-PIP, RPT is a contributor to this article. After working with children and adolescents in play therapy and learning that video games are such an important aspect of the lives of children and adolescents, Rachel sought out additional training on using the language and culture of video games within the play therapy process.
Rachel has utilized these trainings to better understand her clients and to help parents and their children begin to navigate conversations about video game usage in their home.
If you have more questions about how to talk with your children about video game usage or need help navigating this experience, please contact Encompass Mental Health for more information.