As a parent, you want to do everything in your power to help your child grow and develop, and to prevent a video game addiction. As a result, you might overreact to your child’s love for video games. But it’s time to rethink that.
Video games aren’t always a problem. In fact, they can be beneficial to your child’s development.
But how can you tell the difference between a healthy interest and a full-on addiction? And how can you allow the first one, without ending up with the second?
Video game benefits
Video games get a bad rap. Children who spend too much time playing these games aren’t as active and this can increase their sedentary lifestyles. This, in turn, can increase the risk of unhealthy weight gain and even obesity.
There are other physical and psychological concerns when it comes to video games. So, it’s no wonder that parents approach them with caution. And if your child loves them, you may fear you’re heading down a deep rabbit hole. To help you feel less worried about your child’s video game hobby, remember these seven benefits some children experience with gaming.
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#1: Improved executive functions
Research shows that when children play physics-centered puzzle video games they have better executive function skills. This basically means children are able to make decisions more quickly and adapt to changes in the environment more adroitly, too.
#2: Better divergent thinking skills
When video games give children challenges, they can improve a child’s divergent thinking. This means children develop the ability to think outside of the box and develop better problem-solving skills, too.
#3: New interest in history and culture
There are several video games based in real historical eras. Games like “Age of Empires”, “Civilization” and “Mythology” immerse a child within a different era, and this can make them curious about history, geography, culture and even give them exposure to concepts like international relationships – something they might not encounter otherwise.
#4: Healthy competition
Competition might be frowned upon, but it’s a healthy and normal part of childhood development. And many video games give children – especially boys – the opportunity to compete against their opponent.
Another reason why video games are appropriate is that it’s a safe way for children to work out these competitive feelings without hurting anyone.
#5: Learning and abiding by rules
Discipline can be a nightmare for many parents. When kids don't listen, parents feel like they have no choice but to become cruel disciplinarians. But did you know that video games are a great tool to instill in children the importance of rules?
Every game has rules and directions. Following them is of utmost importance. Otherwise, you don’t progress through the game, and you ultimately lose. Video games provide a short-term, immediate example of why rules are so important.
And this can help them respect the rules in your home – just as they would in their favorite video game.
#6: Improved multitasking skills
When video games become more intricate and complicated, your child has to learn to juggle many different pieces of information and tasks to succeed. This is a skill that serves them well as they get older.
Now, multitasking is a bit overrated, but it’s still hard to survive everyday life if you can’t do at least some multitasking.
#7: Better hand-eye coordination
Believe it or not, scientists have found that doctors who play video games do better-performing surgery. Why? Because video games help to improve your hand-eye coordination – a key skill when you’re operating.
These are only seven of the many benefits a child can receive thanks to their gaming activity. But how can you ensure that your child only enjoys these benefits without becoming addicted?
5 signs of video game addiction
As a parent, it’s up to you to monitor your child’s behavior. When you observe certain actions, it’s time to step in. What sort of behavior can indicate that video games are becoming an addiction?
Here are five behaviors to look out for.
Research shows that when young adults go without their smartphones for 24 hours, they experience full-on withdrawal symptoms. Now, your child might not have a smartphone yet, but video games may be a viable replacement.
Look out for withdrawal symptoms like being anxious, sad, moody and irritable when they’re not allowed to play video games.
#2: More tolerance
If your child needs more and more time playing video games in order to feel happy and satisfied, it could be that his or her tolerance levels keep increasing. This means they need more video games to feel the same level of satisfaction they enjoyed when they played in shorter amounts of time.
#3: Loss of interest in other activities
Video games, computers, television, iPads, and smartphones are all a bona fide part of many children’s lives. But they tend to have plenty of other interests, too.
But if you find that your child just doesn’t seem to care about anything other than video games, it’s important to step in, limit video game time, and give them plenty of opportunities to explore other interests.
#4: Emotional meltdowns
Children learn how to handle their emotions as they get older. So, depending on your child’s age, he or she may still be learning how to express strong emotions.
However, no matter what their age, if you observe that your child experiences tantrums or emotional meltdowns when they can’t play video games, this indicates a too-strong attachment and even an addiction to video games.
#5: Loss of healthy coping skills
We all know how hard it is to deal with disappointment and difficult situations. As adults, we might avoid problems by scrolling through social media or by indulging in comfort foods. But children might hide in video games.
If your child stops communicating about issues and events in his or her life but simply turns to gaming, it may be that they don’t know how to cope with difficult situations without video games.
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How to let your child love video games without any risk of addiction
Unless you see these five signs of video game addiction, you shouldn’t be worried. And just to be sure your child continues to enjoy games without increasing the risk for mental health issues, try these easy tips:
- Play video games with your child
- Be present with your child while he or she plays to observe behavior and encourage positive engagement
- Set boundaries and time limits
- Set a rule that for every hour played in video games, the child will take part in a non-technological activity
- Talk about video games and how those challenges may show up in real life, too
Video games are a polarizing topic. Some say they’re a threat to a child’s health and wellbeing. And they can be if you don’t use them properly and establish healthy rules and boundaries. But if you do, they can be very beneficial to your child’s development and growth.