How to Ensure Your Child Has a Healthy Relationship with Gaming

In 2022, the estimated number of gamers on the planet stands at just shy of three billion. And if we take the demographics into account, your child is statistically likely to be one of them. Gaming has changed a lot since the 1980s and 1990s when it was (perhaps unfairly) tagged as replacing television as the ‘great waste of time’. Gaming has become more sophisticated and even beneficial for social skills and cognitive development. But it remains crucial for any parent to ensure that their child has a healthy relationship with gaming. 

The first place to start is with understanding. And by that, we mean appreciating gaming’s place in the cultural hierarchy for many children. Many new video games put an emphasis on the social aspect of gaming. In most cases, children aren’t sequestered off in a room playing alone; they are playing with friends and developing social skills in the process. This is crucial for creating a sense of empathy to manage your child’s gaming habits. For them, gaming is not a treat – it is part of their social network. 

Getting involved can help

While for some parents the world of gaming might seem like an alien landscape, it is worth getting involved in your child’s sessions to see what they are doing. You don’t need to police their activity  (beyond ensuring their safety; more on that later), but rather it’s about engaging with their world. Watching them play, asking questions and having a go on the game yourself can all help you understand what your child sees when they play.   

If you have an understanding of how your child interacts with gaming, then it is possible to instil a sense of balance in their routine. We are a long way away from the era where gaming was viewed as a negative activity, but too much of anything can be detrimental to a child’s physical and mental health. Many parenting guides recommend developing a frameworkand timetabling when and for how long a child can play video games. For instance, perhaps a rule must be set that all homework must be completed first or that the device must be switched off an hour before bedtime. 

Consider a timetable

So, how much is too much? Some studies have recommended that one hour a day on school days and two hours on weekends should be the limit for children over six years old (source: the American Academy of Pediatrics). For kids under six, that time should be cut in half. Others recommend that at least one day of the week should be free from all video games. There might be an argument or two over this, but it will serve them better in the long run. It’s a good idea to have a planned activity on these days, preferably outdoors, so there is a demonstrable alternative to switching on the PlayStation or Xbox. 

As mentioned earlier, it’s important to appreciate that modern gaming is a social experience for children. This has benefits, allowing children to develop social skills like communication and teamwork. And in 2022, online friends can be real friends. But the social side, more than the gaming content, is where you will need to monitor your child’s activity the most. 

Protections for minors on gaming platforms have improved greatly in recent years vis-a-vis their interactions with adults. However, you will need to speak with your child to ensure they have an understanding of online safety. You don’t need to monitor every interaction – that would be akin to reading your child’s diary – but the child should know that you might check from time to time. 

It’s a sad reflection of today’s society that kids can face a range of bullying online. Of course, we can never tell if it is our own children engaging in a ‘pile on’ against other kids, orif they are the victims of bullying themselves. Discovering that either is happening can be distressing, but the key is that we engage with our kids by talking to them about their gaming activities. 

In the end, most of these rules are simply common sense. We can break them down into three main areas: 

Motivation – Learning about how and why your child interacts with video games. 

Moderation – Making an assessment and developing rules on how long your child should play. 

Monitoring – Ensuring that you are aware of your child’s activity, and that your child knows you are aware. 

Of course, all of the details within these rules are flexible. Parents will know what works best for them. But using them as a base can help ensure your child has a healthy relationship with the world of video games.

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