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Preventing Video Game Addiction in Children

Tips for Parents and Caregivers

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Updated February 19, 2009

Video game addiction is a real concern for parents, but there is a lot you can do to prevent this from occurring. The following tips draw on the American Medical Association’s advice for parents.

Use the ratings system to choose video games for your child

Although inappropriate content has been targeted at younger children by the video games industry, ratings are the best guidance we have at the moment. The American Medical Association is campaigning for greater accuracy in ratings, so we should support this approach.

Limit your child to 1 to 2 hours of total daily screen time

This recommendation includes TV and video games, with the total time spent playing video games being included in that 1 to 2 hour allotment. If you are having difficulty thinking about how your child will be entertained without more than two hours of screen time, you may need more help with parenting skills.

The links below may help you get ideas for activities that will help your child’s physical, mental and emotional development, as well as giving them alternatives to passive TV watching or video game playing.

Monitor and restrict your child's use of video games, TV and the Internet

You may feel you should let your child guide their own activities, in the belief that it fosters independence. However, your child does not have the maturity to know what they are developmentally ready for. Therefore, you should collaborate with your child – discuss their likes and dislikes in all media, and make choices based on their readiness and level of challenge needed.

Video games that contain violent images, as well as in other media, may promote aggressive thoughts, feelings or behaviors in your child. Therefore, you should pay particular attention to violent content.

Teach your child internet safety

Closely monitor your child’s use of the internet, using software to block their access to inappropriate material. The internet puts children at particular risk for child abuse, as pedophiles are known to meet and groom children through chat rooms. Even chat rooms that are child-centred are a risk, so this is one time when safety should prevail over your child’s privacy.

When appropriate, teach your child the importance of protecting themselves against abuse.

Stay updated with research into the effects of video games

At present, research into the effects of video games is in its infancy. Furthermore, research findings are inconclusive, and the video games industry are promoting their own research which, of course, indicate that video games are healthy and harmless.

Consider the source of any research you read, and visit this guidesite at regular intervals for research and recommendation updates. Signing up for the newsletter is a good way to stay updated with new content on the site.

Engage your child in a range of healthy activities

Explore alternative activities for and with your child, and include a range of indoor and outdoor, mental and physical, social and lone activities. The more flexible your child is in adapting to different social settings, tasks and environments, the less likely they are to depend on one way of coping (such as video games, the internet or TV).

Teach your child a variety of ways of coping with emotions and disappointments

Think about your child’s temperament, strengths and weaknesses. Which areas does your child need to develop? Does video game playing provide a good excuse to avoid social interactions, for example?

If you feel unable to meet all of your child’s needs, don't just leave them to their own devices. Seek support. Community centers are a great way of accessing a range of different activities at low or no cost.

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