Addicting Games and How to Protect Our Children From Them
Nobody would claim that addiction is a good thing to be promoting but if you type in the words ‘addicting games‘ into a search engine you could be forgiven for thinking that encouraging addiction is the purpose of video game design – or at least a harmless side effect. Developers fall over themselves to claim they have created the most addictive game ever while players rave about the games they just couldn’t quit. There is even a website called addictinggames.com, proving just how much addicting games have become normalised.
Of course, video games are entertaining and stimulating and few people would want to ban them. However, something that is fine in moderation can be harmful in excess. If responsible organisations don’t encourage sensible gaming limits and parents don’t enforce those limits there is a real danger that our young people will grow up just as dependent on video games as alcoholics or drug users are to their fix.
The Harmful Effects of Addicting Games
One of the reasons the effect of addicting games is downplayed is due to the lack of an obvious addictive substance. But our brains contain their own store of neurochemicals that are stimulated by our behaviours. While the dopamine system is associated with compulsive behaviours, the opiate system can give us a kick when we achieve a desired goal. By keeping us coming back for more and rewarding us with spikes of achievement, addicting games can affect our brain chemistry in similar ways to substance abuse.
For children, the effects of excessive gaming can be serious. Mild levels of addiction can cause them to stay up too late, depriving them of the sleep needed to focus on school work. Any attempt to curtail their game time can lead to angry outbursts and sulking, disrupting relationships at home.
In serious cases, addicting games can lead to problems with nutrition, personal hygiene and mental health with negative behaviours such as anger and violence spiralling out of control.
5 Step Strategy to Wean your Child off Addicting Games
To protect our children from addictive games, parents need to implement controls as early as possible. If you are worried that your child is becoming addicted to gaming, you should get started on these straight away.
- Set Reasonable Time Limits
Opinions vary as to how much gaming time is reasonable but setting any limit is better than none. Rather than unplug a computer or games console when the time is up, it is better to be firm but fair and allow the young person to play until the next opportunity they have to save their progress. In a non-limited game (like standard Minecraft), a ten minute warning should be sufficient. Some young people will try and convince you that they will lose their progress unless you allow them to ‘finish the level.’ This is unlikely to be the case so be prepared to put your foot down if they keep dragging out their playing time.
- Allow Game Time as a Reward
If your child is gaming on their phone or console before you’ve hardly had a chance to greet them from school, create a new rule that they have to complete their homework or, if they have none, a chore before they can start gaming. Expect resistance at first but be firm and you should be able to change that pattern of behaviour.
- Insist on Outdoor Activities
Excessive gaming can lead to isolation from the real world and deprive children of exercise and healthy exposure to the outdoors. Insist that they have some daily exercise – even if it is just for half an hour. Remind them that visiting a mate’s house to play games doesn’t count.
- Be Firm and Consistent
This is probably the hardest step because it requires setting clear boundaries and not letting things slide. If your young person won’t abide by the new rules, warn them that they face having their phone or console confiscated and being grounded (if they simply go to a friends to play). There is likely to be shouting and sulking but if you remain firm you should soon see results.
- Get Help
If the above strategy leads to extreme anger, violence, deceit or distress, addiction could already require professional help. Speak to your GP about your concerns and they may refer you to a source of appropriate help such as CAMHS.
It is also a good idea to talk to your school about booking a 2020 Dreams Addiction Workshop. As an independent voice using the latest proven educational techniques, we can often get the message through where other tactics have failed.
To book an Addiction Workshop or one of our other Life, Crime & Social Survival workshops call us on 0800 471 4983 or email firstname.lastname@example.org