Summer means abundance in leisure and for some, leisure = video games. Many parents (including myself) sometimes struggle with how much is TOO MUCH? Well, it’s not as complicated to gauge as you might think, but it takes a little bit of effort on our part (this article will focus on video games and next week I will focus on social media).

It comes back to balance and moderation. Yes there will be days when you have family or friends over for drinks and you’re enjoying yourselves (without watching the clock) while all the kids are in another room playing video games far past their usual limited time. And guess what? That’s OK!

On regular days however, giving your tweens and teens guidelines for gaming is essential for a healthy balanced summer. Without limits you may notice signs that your child is slowly slipping down a slope that’s very difficult to climb out of. Allow me to explain why …

Video games, especially the online interactive ones like Wold of Warcraft (WoW) and League of Legends are DESIGNED to be addictive. These games are goal oriented and humans love to have a goal to fulfill. We are driven to want to complete a goal and will mindlessly be driven to move towards it especially when the goals are just beyond reach. “Behavioral addiction (something we do compulsively that doesn’t involve ingesting a substance into our bodies) consists of: irresistible and unpredictable positive feedback; a sense of incremental progress and improvement; and tasks that become slowly more difficult over time” (Adam Atler, Author of Irresistible).

What makes it even more difficult to leave these games is the fact that you create teams with players from all over the world. Some teens will forego sleep because three of their teammates from Copenhagen, Tokyo and Mumbai are on an epic quest without them!

Real words from a WoW gamer: “You do quests and kill monsters for experience points and gold. Doing either of those require immense amounts of time, literally on par with a part-time job. To progress, you virtually have to marry the damn game. ‘Thanks for the invitation, but I can’t hang out this weekend. I have a raid, and if I miss it, you know how WoW gets. If you don’t spend enough time with it, it gets all bitchy and starts withholding the good loot.’”

Bennett Foddy, game developer and professor at New York University’s Game Centre, who’s played thousands of video games, is a brilliant thinker but still refuses to sample the charms of WoW for fear of losing months or years of his life…       So there.

What to look for if you suspect video games are taking over your child’s life:
Are there negative consequences with his use? Like health issues, mood issues, sleep issues, low academic performance?
Are you noticing withdrawal from your child from things he used to be interested in?
Is your child tired most of the time? Easily irritable when not gaming?
Does your child have a low tolerance for boredom?

What can you do to help your child stay in control of video gaming? (Balance and moderation)
Set gaming days and non gaming days (and be consistent).
Set time limits (give a 5 min. warning before shut down time to allow him to mentally prepare).
Keep gaming devices OUT OF THE BEDROOM overnight.

Let’s face it. Kids love video games and there’s nothing wrong with playing them. But when you start to see negative consequences as a result of playing too much, those are red flags. Don’t ignore the red flags.

Next week Natalia will share tips about signs that social media is taking over.