Watching your child play video games all day and neglecting other parts of life is a painful sight. So let’s learn about how to break a child’s video game addiction.
Parents often say that it does not make sense why their child would want to play video games for over 8 hours a day rather than go outside and play with their friends. Understanding the problem is the first step to solving it. Good diagnosis precedes good treatment. Let’s try to understand what role video games play in your child’s life.
If you want to learn more about video game addiction, its signs, symptoms, causes, the effect on a gamer’s life, how to stop playing video games, how to wean your child off video games, whether games cause violence or make you smarter, then the Comprehensive Guide to Video Game Addiction might be of use to you. Click here to read the complete guide on video game addiction.
Video games affect a child’s brain in several ways. Not all of them are bad.
Harvard psychiatrist Dr. Alok Kanojia explains how video games affect your child’s brain in this video:
The simple answer is: if it causes a problem, it is a problem. Your child could be addicted to video games if their gaming habit affects their:
When your child plays video games, do they become someone else? Do they get irritable or moody? Do they become completely disrespectful?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, your child might be addicted to video games.
Video game addiction can be recognized by:
To read more about the signs of video game addiction, click here.
That differs from child to child. There is a massive difference between a 12-year-old, a 15-year-old, a 17-year-old, and a 20-year-old. Some children can play video games recreationally for several hours and still maintain excellent performance in school. They also engage in sports and other physical activities and spend time with their parents. A gaming habit is not doomed to turn into a video game addiction.
However, if you find that your child is scoring poorly in school, not engaging in physical activity, compromising on their sleep, and playing video games for 8-12 hours a day, then their gaming habit is problematic.
Different gaming patterns work for different children. Some children don’t play video games during the week and then play for 4-8 hours during the weekend, which allows them to focus on school as well as enjoy video games in long bursts.
Dr. Alok Kanojia’s recommendations for limiting your child’s gaming:
For other children, a pattern of playing an hour or two every day might be more sustainable. Of course, that is if they can keep up with their schoolwork and maintain their physical health.
How long your child plays also depends on what games they play. Some games such as the Civilization series and other games of the strategy genre can go on for hours — progression in those games is quite slow, so your child might want to play those games for longer hours. Other games such as Fortnite, Dota 2, and League of Legends don’t last for as long — an average match usually lasts for 35-50 minutes.
At the end of the day, how long your child plays should not be the only measurement of whether they are addicted to video games. Considering other aspects of their life, such as academic performance, physical health, and mental health, will paint a much more accurate picture.
One of the biggest obstacles that parents run into when trying to get their child to stop playing video games is when they say, “No gaming for a week. Read this book instead” or something along those lines.
Nobody in that relationship understands that the child cannot enjoy and engage with that book — they just don’t have the capacity to do that, not in the way that we do.
As a parent, you have to understand that when you give your child a small alternative to gaming, they will not be able to enjoy it. You have to pull them away from video games in a significant manner to get them to have a healthy dopamine-functioning brain.
The good news is that you don’t need to shut down their gaming habit completely. It is enough to engage your child in a way that they find enjoyable.
For example, some people go whitewater rafting for a vacation. Whitewater rafting is a high adrenaline activity and that is why gamers tend to love it. It gives their brain a similar dopamine response as gaming. It is engaging, healthy, and something you can do as a family.
To break a child’s video game addiction, you need to give them a hard but engaging task. That is due to how video games affect the triumph circuit in our minds. Triumph requires adversity, so your child will be the most responsive to activities that are challenging, yet fun.
Dr. Kanojia talks about the problems parents face when trying to regulate their child’s gaming habit:
The first step a parent should take is to disarm their child by talking to them. When you speak to your child about their gaming habit, the first thing that will pop into their mind is that you will take away their video games.
That thought will make them defensive, and anything they say will come from the mindset of “them + their video games vs. you.”
Therefore, you need to get on their team. Try to explain to your child, “I want to talk to you. I’m not saying that we’re going to make any changes. First, just help me understand.”
After having this conversation, you need to set reasonable expectations. You could say, “I know that you love playing Fortnite because you feel amazing when you win the match. I think it’s awesome for you to win, and I want you to keep feeling amazing. I’m just wondering if, in addition to Fortnite, is there something else that could help you feel that way? I know you love Fortnite,
but I think your grades are kind of unacceptable. I know you are capable of getting more than Cs, and so, if your grades don’t improve, then we’re gonna have to stop playing Fortnite.”
The most important thing when trying to help your child gain control of their gaming habit is to communicate to them that you care and that you are on their team. Take an active role in helping them understand what video games do for them. Help them realize how other activities can be just as engaging. That is one of the best answers to how to break a child’s video game addiction.
Click here to learn some actionable video game addiction treatment strategies.
Building a healthy relationship with your child is key to helping them break their video game addiction. If you can get on the same team as them, and understand what role video games play in their life and why their gaming habit can be problematic, then they will be much more receptive to what you have to say.
Your child doesn’t need to quit gaming to gain control of their life. It is enough to address why your child turns to video games. That will allow them to enjoy gaming recreationally and not depend on it to fulfill a need.
The Healthy Gamer Family Support Program is a 12-week virtual coaching solution created by Dr. Alok Kanojia, known as Dr. K, the world expert on video game psychology. It covers the most frustrating, difficult, and common dynamics around excessive gaming including:
For 12 consecutive weeks, participants get access to a workshop and Q&A with Dr. K and weekly support groups led by Healthy Gamer Coaches. The dual support structure helps parents get started and follow-through in helping their children combat excessive gaming.
Click here to learn more.