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How Can You Moderate Time Spent by Children on Video Games?

How can I stop my child spending so much time playing on video games when I want them to do that homework instead?

This is a question that I get asked all the time.

Here are four things you need to know. 

  1. Video games are a problem
  2. Why children play them
  3. How to discover why your child plays these games
  4. Some ideas of how to help your child stop playing too much.

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Why do parents ask me how they can stop their kids playing video games?

The main reason is because they think it detracts from time from doing homework, which it probably does.

How long should children be playing video games? It’s difficult to tell, but no child should be in front of the screen for five hours a day, even four hours a day or even three. That time includes watching television as well as the video games that they are playing.

We want kids playing video games, these games can help develop learning skills, but we want them playing in a responsible and respectful way so that it does not interfere with their schoolwork, homework or social life.


If your child is playing video games rather than doing homework, it’s a problem and you need to do something about it.  But you need to help without being preachy or sermonizing or telling your child what to do because you know that doesn’t work!

You need a more understanding approach to helping your child use video games responsibly.  The first step is to understand why your child is spending his or her time with video games then you discover how to change the situation.

Why kids play video games?

  1. Peer pressure.

All their friends are doing it. They want to do it. There may be even playing a game in common with a group and they have the pressure to keep up with that group to not let that team down. So they can be tremendous pressure to play video games, keep the score up for the group. There’s also peer pressure to boast to others about how well they can play a game, what their score is.

  1. Quick success

Playing video games is very rewarding. Players get wins every few minutes, maybe every few seconds. The screen lights up, music plays, they are told how good they are. Even when the player gets something wrong, he or she knows that in a few seconds or a few minutes they’re going to have chance to get something right. Your child is getting constant reinforcement about what they are doing.   What’s not to love?

  1. Video games are addictive.

    These games are designed to be addictive. Experts know exactly how to make a video game addictive so that kids want to keep playing. There’s always something else to do. There’s always some incentive to do the next stage to do the next step. So it can be very difficult for kids. They can get addicted to video games. I have heard of children spending five, six, seven hours on video games because they can be so addictive. This element of video games is very disruptive and very dangerous.

  2. Avoidance

Games also a good way of avoiding doing something the child does not want to do. They are a way of avoiding doing something they are not particularly interested in doing. Which of course, could be homework!

  1. Boredom
    A big reason that kids play video games is when they feel bored. It is easy to pick up a video game and play it. Video games give their mind something to do and keeps boredom at bay.

There you have it.  Five reasons kids play video games. 

There is no pint getting angry about the time your child spends on these games until you know why this happens and what you can do about it.

Slow LearnerThe next step is to discover why your child plays these games.  You can do this by asking – gently – a series of questions and noting your child’s responses.

How to discover why your child plays video games?

 Here are some questions to help you discover your child’s reasons for playing:

  • What games do you play?
  • Ask your child to show you what they play. You might not understand the appeal of the game, but you need to know what your child is playing.
  • Can I watch you play?
  • Watch what they’re doing. Let them show off to you about how well they can play the game.
  • Why do you like that game?
  • What’s exciting about it?  
  • Why do you like about that particular game?
  • What makes you want to continue playing? These questions help you gain an understanding of what they’re doing and why they are doing it.
  • How many of your friends play the same game?

Find out if it’s a group game or if they’re doing it under peer pressure!

  • Who do you play with?
  • What level are you at?
  • Is it a group level or is it an individual level?What prizes do you earn?
  • Do they earn points or tools for the game?
  • When do they play these games?

Do they play them at school? Do they play them at home? Do they play them in their room? Do they play them before school? Do they play them at lunchtime and at when they play the games? That will give you some indication of how much time you’re actually spending playing these games.

  • What does playing these games stop you doing?
  • What would you be doing if you weren’t playing video games?
  • Do you spend money on these games? How do you spend money?
  • How do you buy stuff?  What can you buy?
  • What’s the reason for spending money on these games? Are you buying skills? Are you buying extra levels? What is you buying?
  • What information does the game have about you? What information have you given to this game? What do the people playing this game know about you?

Getting answers to these questions will help you understand why child is playing video games. You may be surprised at the answers, but the answers are very important and you need to know what they are.

Now for a very important issue.

You need to know if your child is addicted to video games.  This can happen so easily and sneakily that he or she may not even know.

Ask your child if he thinks about the games when he’s not playing, if he dreams about the game, if he visualizes the game when he’s not actually playing the game itself.  These are a major sign that the game is becoming addictive.

So, what do you do about the situation?

Peer Pressure

If your child is playing video games because of peer pressure, if you’ve discovered that he’s trying to keep up with his friends, and that all his friends are playing the same game, you have to start talking about peer pressure.

Children may not be aware of what peer pressure is. Help your child understand that he doesn’t have to succumb all the time to peer pressure and that his friends will still be his friends even though he doesn’t do it exactly what they expect him to do. Peer pressure is difficult for kids to handle and it is difficult for parents to explain, but it’s very important that they understand even if they still succumb to peer pressure, they need to be aware that that’s what’s happening.

So talk to your children about peer pressure. Maybe tell them of a time when you had to handle it.  Tell them how difficult it was but that being able to handle peer pressure is a sign of growing up.

Boredom

Being bored is an uncomfortable feeling. You can accept that and talk about it, and explain that is important to be bored at times because it actually gives a brain time to process the thoughts that are in it.

Boredom is not something to run away from. It is something to be thought about.

You may want to offer your child an alternative activity.  Find something exciting that they would like to do, preferably with you. This is why you have to spend time with your child getting to know them, playing board games, going out, playing soccer, introducing a child to an activity which they are going to enjoy and chances are that’s activity is going to include you in some way.

Constant Successes

Video games give constant successes to children even when they’re failing. Those small, constant successes are a way of keeping your child engaged in the game.   How do you do this for your child? How do you provide them with constant small successes?

Try breaking down the activities that your child is doing, the homework activities or the activities around the house, and giving them a success, giving them Brownie Points. If you want to know more about Brownie Points let me know.

You can always find some way to praise your child, some tiny thing, but keep praising your child. Keep getting them this success, honest success.

Avoidance

What is your child trying to avoid? Talk to your child about this. Find out why he or she is avoiding something. Is it too hard? Is it too easy? Is it boring?  Find out why your child is avoiding something. Are they avoiding people? Are they avoiding social relationships? Are they avoiding helping get dinner? Find out what your child is trying to avoid and explain the necessity of not avoiding it and explain ways of making that task much more enjoyable and much more doable.

When they’re avoiding something, give them a deal. Make a deal with them. 10 minutes doing something that they’re avoiding doing and then 10 minutes playing video games.

But always, always explain to your child why you are worried about their use of video games. Don’t talk to them in a preachy,” I know best” way of speaking.  Explain that you’re finding out information so that you can help him or her handle video game use.

All parents worry about their kids playing video games.  Most parents don’t have anything to worry about.  But for those of you who do check out the advice above, and contact me if you need more support.

And lastly –  you might want to try playing a video games yourself so that you can understand their appeal.