My Son Stays Up All Night Playing Video Games. What Do I Do?
Video game addiction can cause your son to stay up all night playing video games. As a result, he can be late for school, be inattentive during school due to sleep deprivation, and also suffer the health risks of sleep deprivation.
Here is a step-by-step breakdown of how to prevent your son from staying up all night playing video games.
- Understand what gaming does to him
- Build rapport with him around gaming
- Understand his motivations
- Manage expectations
- Set fair and effective boundaries
- Enforce those boundaries
Keep reading because we will explore each of these points and how to implement these to slowly get your son to stop gaming all night.
If video games are leading your son, helping him overcome it does not have to be a one-person endeavor. It can be difficult to get on the same page as your kid and get him to stop spending the whole day gaming. We’ve worked with thousands of gamers, and we know we can help you, too. Click here to learn more about Healthy Gamer Parent Coaching.
Your child may stay up all night playing video games because he has a video game addiction. This quiz can help you determine if that is the case:
Risks of Staying Up All Night Gaming
- Poor concentration and thinking
- Memory issues
- Shorter temper, moodiness.
- Weakened immunity
- Higher chance of accidents
- Increased risk of weight gain
- Higher risk of diabetes
How Video Game Addiction Affects the Brain
Excessive Stimulation and Melatonin Suppression
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in our brains that regulates our feeling of pleasure. When we play video games, our brain releases dopamine into our brain’s pleasure center in a continuous stream, with random bursts. That is one of the reasons gaming is pleasurable.
In this video, Dr. Kanojia explains how gaming affects our dopamine system
However, this also stimulates the brain excessively. Playing video games at night can stimulate the brain when it needs to calm down and relax. It can lead to the inability to fall asleep and, therefore, result in sleep deprivation.
Additionally, staring at screens before sleep exposes our eyes to blue light. Melatonin is the hormone that controls your sleep/wake cycle or circadian rhythm. The blue light emitted by screens on cell phones, computers, tablets, and televisions restrains melatonin production. A reduction in melatonin makes it harder to fall and stay asleep.
The amygdala is the part of our brain that governs negative emotions. One of the reasons people turn to video games as an escape from real life is that video games suppress the amygdala’s function. fMRI studies have shown that when we feel negative emotions and start to play video games, the amygdala activity reduces. Many kids who don’t have the tools and knowledge to manage their inner emotional state turn to video games to suppress these negative emotions.
Repeated suppression can also lead to a condition called alexithymia, which is the inability to determine your inner emotional state. The development of alexithymia is a significant contributor to gamer rage since all that suppressed negative emotion comes out as anger.
In this video, Dr. K explains why its difficult for children to quit gaming
Why Your Son Stays Up All Night Playing Video Games
Many kids who are addicted to video games favor the nighttime for gaming. There are some excellent reasons for this:
It is harder to enforce boundaries at night.
The child knows that it is harder for his parents to enforce boundaries during the nighttime. Working parents would come home tired from work and not have the time or energy to ensure that their son is not staying up all night playing video games. There could be arguments and conflict during bedtime, but the child can wait for the parents to fall asleep and start gaming. That is especially true if the gaming console or computer is in the child’s room.
His gaming friends also play at night.
Most children who are addicted to video games have friends who are also addicted to video games. All of them might be using video games to fulfill their psychological need for social connection and friendships. As a result, when one kid starts to play at night, it affects the entire friend circle, and all of them start staying up gaming late into the night.
The daytime is too stressful for him.
As we learned earlier, children also use video games to suppress their negative emotions and escape from daily life stresses. One of the reasons your son may stay up all night playing video games might be because he encounters a lot of stress during the day.
For example, children who are not doing well at school get reprimanded by their teachers and parents. That can cause a lot of stress, and the child can feel like a failure and stuck in life. Therefore, he might turn to video games during the night time to cope with these stressors during the day.
He only has friends in other timezones and countries.
Many children who get bullied or don’t fit in at school turn to video games to make friends. The internet and games can offer communities that facilitate the formation of really authentic relationships. Since you cannot judge anyone based on their social status, financial status, appearance, race, etc., people get judged for their skill in the game. It is a breath of fresh air for gamers who get judged for all of these other real-life attributes. It helps them find authentic relationships online. These relationships can exist in any timezone and cross all geographical boundaries.
Gaming can lead to very authentic relationships. In this video, Dr. Kanojia explains why:
However, when a child’s social circle exists in another country and, consequently, another timezone, it can lead to him staying up at odd times to interact with them. That can hurt his daily routine in a significant way. Moreover, when he loses access to these friends, the emotional pain is too much to bear, and he starts to act out.
Does your child also stay up all night watching YouTube, TikTok, anime, or scrolling through Instagram? Click here to read more in this article on how to wean your child off the ill effects of excessive screen time.
Help Your Child Regain Control From Gaming All Night
The first step to helping your child gain control over his gaming habit is to build rapport with him. If your son perceives the situation as him and the game vs. you, he will always act defensively. It will be tough to get him to do anything.
Start by spending more time with him, both when he is gaming and when he is not. Engage him in his interest. Genuinely try to come from a place of understanding rather than taking the games away. Also, help your son realize that you want to understand him, and you are not going to take his games away. Try not to have any conversations around his gaming habits yet.
Understand his Motivations
After a few weeks of building sufficient rapport, attempt to understand why he plays video games. At this stage, it is essential to maintain the rapport you have built with him. You can try asking him the following open-ended questions:
- What games does he play?
- Why does he enjoy playing those games?
- Who does he play with?
- What times does he prefer playing?
Learning the answer to these questions will help you understand the motivations behind his addictive behaviors.
Manage Expectations and Set Boundaries
Parents have the most control over a boundary before their child gains access to their gaming system. Therefore, set expectations around their gaming habits BEFORE they gain access to their gaming console or computer.
The most friction in a parent-child relationship come from unclear or vague expectation setting. Ask your child what you can expect from them in terms of their schoolwork, chores, grades, etc. Don’t give them the answer you want to hear. Ask open-ended questions, and let your son think it through.
Avoid setting vague expectations. “If you get your PS5, will you listen to me?” The child will say yes without understanding the implications of what he said. Reframe from vague and rhetorical questions to concrete performance metrics.
It is hard to enforce boundaries when you have to stay up late with your kid to make sure that he isn’t gaming. In this scenario, it might be wise to take away your child’s access to games for a while. However, involve him in the conversation when setting this boundary. Get his opinion, listen to his concerns. You don’t have to act on them, but he should feel like his voice is heard.
One of the common approaches is to take away their child’s gaming console if his performance starts to suffer. You can try the reverse of this approach as well. For example, tell him that he will get his games back if he gets a B+ or better at school.
While this looks like a reward, it is not. It would be a reward if you did not set the expectation of not getting the console before the child got an A. Do not give the child his gaming console unless he does well. If you give him access too early, then that boundary and any others you set in the future become meaningless.
Most of the time, parents break their own boundaries because of the love and positive emotions towards their child. Regulating your emotional state is crucial as a parent. Otherwise, your boundaries will become meaningless to your kid.
Preventing your son from gaming all night can be very difficult. Video games are designed to be addictive for gamers. More and more games aim to fulfill fundamental psychological needs. As a result, children turn to them to fulfill their unmet needs and get stuck playing video games.
The Healthy Gamer Parent Coaching can help. It is a 12-week virtual coaching solution created by Dr. Alok Kanojia, known as Dr. K, the world expert on video game psychology. The Parent Coaching Program covers the most frustrating, challenging, and common dynamics around excessive gaming, including:
- Managing your child’s expectations
- Setting and enforcing fair, effective boundaries
- Dealing with resistance from your child
- Approaching your child based on their stage in adolescence
- Adapting your approach for autism, ADHD, mood disorders, or substance use
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.
We’ve worked with thousands of gamers, and we know we can help you, too. Healthy Gamer Programs are effective and affordable because they’re led by people who get it.
- Healthy Gamer’s affordable solutions are priced to be cheaper than seeing a therapist. For the price of three hours of therapy, you get three months of support from Dr. K, Healthy Gamer Coaches, and other parents.
- Support groups work. As an evidence-based organization, all Healthy Gamer programs use validated outcome measures to ensure progress.
- We get it. Dr. K leads the industry in expertise working with gamers and their families. All Healthy Gamer Coaches are trained and supervised by Dr. K to ensure the highest quality of outcomes.
Click here to learn more about the Healthy Gamer Parent Coaching Program.