Gaming represents a huge market of more than $175 billion per year in revenue. In the U.S. recent studies show 83% of teenage girls play video games, while almost all teenage boys play video games. There are several things that keep kids occupied in games, and several types of gamers. As a psychologist and coach who works with children, adolescents, and adults with video game issues, I am here to tell you that gaming itself is not bad if handled well, but can be very deleterious to individuals if handled incorrectly. It’s difficult for children and teenagers, as well as young adults, to transition out of, especially with the pandemic.
Here are 10 strategies to help your son or daughter transition back to school and manage gaming in a healthy way.
1. Sit down with your child and understand what games they play. Understand the objective of the games, the limits of the games, the penalties involved in the games, and why they play that certain game. In general, there are two types of gamers: those who hunt for achievement playing tactical games, and those who are more involved in role play fantasy games, and each game has different draws.
2. Help design a balance, as individuals who game well also game in a balance. What do they do besides gaming? What other activities are they involved in? Be aware that the dopamine rush that they get from gaming can be achieved in other ways, such as exercise, sports, being with friends, arts, music, etc.
3. Agree to set limits on the games. Understand that there is no perfect formula to this, as I get asked this question often. But do what you feel is reasonable and they feel is reasonable, and come to some compromise — then hold them to that agreement.
4. Set consequences if they break the rules. In other words, if they are sneaking games in the middle of the night, playing when they’re not supposed to, not getting off of games when told, etc., they should face consequences they know about in advance.
5. Put some kind of tracking on their games or their system if they are not being honest or if you are concerned. I suggest telling them that this is on there, so that they know, and you are not being deceitful. Also, warn them that if they try to go around the system, they will have consequences for that behavior as well.
6. Depending on the age of your child, make sure they are aware of the safety concerns involved in gaming. Many times persons with ill intent will try to lure them off the games onto different servers, or represent themselves as someone they are not. Be sure to have a discussion reminding them that not everything they see on the internet is true.
7. Know your way around the electronics yourself. Most kids know more than their parents about the games and systems involved in gaming, and what they don’t know they can find out on YouTube. Educate yourself.
8. If your child is struggling with a gaming issue, get help early. Symptoms of a larger problem include rage-quitting, anger when asked to get off the games, lack of interest in other activities, lack of social life outside of gaming, declining grades, decreased hygiene, or sleep issues. Be aware there is a diagnosis of gaming disorder that is being considered in the U.S., and the criteria for it already exists internationally.
9. Talk to your child’s school if they are having trouble, because the school often is providing the device that allows them to game. Some schools have tracking on their device; some schools do not. Sometimes you can ask teachers to print out paper versions of assignments rather than electronic ones, if a child or adolescent is having trouble staying on task.
10. Be sure to have open discussions with your child or adolescent on a regular basis, not just about gaming, but about social media, privacy, and appropriate and inappropriate websites. Parents are often surprised at how easily even young children can access or encounter inappropriate information online, and being an informed parent gives you an opportunity to be ahead of the process.
UNDERSTAND THE BUSINESS OF GAMING
To understand gaming, one must understand the mechanisms of the game.
• Quitting the game often can lead to a punishment from your friends for dropping out, or from the game itself.
• Leveling up can be a feeling the gamer chases, as it offers dopamine to the individual for reaching certain levels, finishing certain tasks, and achieving certain goals.
• Guaranteed success is almost built into games. That is, if you work at the game long enough, you will get better. Unlike in the “terrestrial
world,” where someone can practice tennis forever and may not get better, in gaming, if a child works long enough at it, he will likely get better.
• Mobile gaming has revolutionized the market, especially with friends playing the same games. This promotes the social aspect of gaming.
• There are costs associated with gaming, as kids are encouraged to buy different “skins” or outfits, upgrade, customize weapons, battle pass and more.
Dr. Jay Berk is a licensed psychologist in two states and an expert in working with children, adolescents, and families. He also works with oppositional defiant children and their families, as well as social skills acquisition groups for children and adolescents. In addition to providing therapy, Berk has provided training and workshops throughout the country to schools, agencies, and a variety of groups. For more information visit jayberkphd.com, or call 216-292-7170, extension 0.