My child is addicted to video games, what do I do?

AddictedToVideoGames

By: Rick DeBoest, MA, LMHC, LCAC, CSAYC, Residential Director of Clinical Services

This is an ever-increasing problem in today’s society. Video games in and of themselves are not bad (assuming that we are discerning in which ones we play), but the way that they are made and the reasons why people play them can cause one to become addicted to them. Many video games are designed to challenge you to get to the next level, complete the next challenge, and get the next bonus, where by nature they drive people to want to play more and more to get that next thing that is promised by the video game. This also gives a false sense of accomplishment.  “I’ve reached level 52.” Which may have taken hours and hours to accomplish, however, one must ask themselves what societal or eternal value was accomplished during this time. Many will say that they use it to relax or escape stress.  This too can be addictive in nature because playing video games becomes the coping skill to difficulties in life. What happens is the more stress a person feels the more they will play and as a result the more difficulties or stress they will feel (due to unmet expectations)... so they play more games.

What Games Do Your Child Play?

I would agree that as parents we must be very careful with what and how much video games out children play. The first thing that we need to be careful of is the nature of video games. Many games are not child appropriate (blood, gore, killing, sexual in nature). I would also argue that this is not adult appropriate either, as we don’t mature to the point to be able to handle sinful ideas or things, but rather we need to be examples to our children and stay away from things, thoughts, ideas that are not God-honoring (Phil. 4:8). As parents we need to preview the video games or monitor their play so that we know that they are appropriate. Check out how video games are rated on pluggedin.com to help you and your child be a discerning gamer.

How Much Time Does Your Child Spend Playing? 

The other area to address is the time factor.  How much time should a child be allowed to play video games. Let me help you ask yourselves some questions to find out what time frames you are comfortable with. How much time do you want to allow your child to spend that is not beneficial to themselves, others, or to God? How much time do you want to allow them to have “down” time, a day, a week? Should this time be earned by either good behavior or completion of assigned tasks? Children should not be allowed to either watch TV, video, be on the internet, or game for indiscriminate amounts of time. A set amount of time should be agreed upon per day or week and this time frame should be adhered to except for planned special occasions. Too often games become the babysitter for children because it distracts the child and keeps them “occupied” while the parent either gets things done or finds a way to entertain themselves.  

I will share our family’s personal rules on gaming. I realize that many would consider it extreme, but then allow me to share the results. Up until about 3 years ago (we have two 17 year-olds and two 12 year-olds), we refused to get a game system. About 3 years ago my son found an older game system at a garage sale.  My wife and I agreed to let him purchase the system. Early on we were less discriminating with our children’s use of the system, but still limited their time. After about a year, and a very challenging sermon from our pastor, we decided that each of us had areas in our lives that were not in and of themselves bad, but took time away from doing what God would want us to do with our time. One of the things that we gave up completely was playing video games. About one year ago we had a foster son placed with us, who was used to playing video games all the time. Feeling that our total nonuse of gaming would be a difficult hurdle for him, we started to allow our children, along with him, to play video games again. They each got 15 minutes of play time each Saturday.  We then slightly modified this, so that they could earn an extra 15 minutes of play time by reciting the family memory verse for the week. The result has been our kids have been playing outside more, reading more, interacting with each other more, playing board games and other forms of play. I would greatly encourage you to talk about gaming as a family, set up parameters for what is an appropriate and inappropriate type of game to play. Then set up time limits that will work with your family, as well as, when these can be stretched on special occasions.  Find time to play video games as a family. Some systems allow for multiple players or be creative in how to take turns playing and encouraging each other. Work to make playing be God honoring and to pull you together as a family rather than taking time away from God and each other.  

Additional Resources:

  • Playstation Nation: Protect Your Child from Video Game Addiction – ebook by Olivia Bruner, Kurt Bruner
  • Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World by Gary Chapman, Arlene Pellicane
  • The Digital Invasion: How Technology Is Shaping You and Your Relationships by Dr. Archibald Hard, Dr. Sylvia Hart Frejd.

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