Dear Katherine: My Kids Love Video Games — Should I Be Concerned?
My kids love playing video games. They seem to take genuine pleasure in this activity, and while they’re occupied, I have a chance to do household chores and enjoy a little time to myself.
I know there are better hobbies out there—but if they like gaming and it gives me a bit of space, is that so wrong? Am I making a parenting mistake by letting them play?
Guilty As Charged
Hey there, Guilty As Charged,
First of all, you have nothing to feel guilty about here! Check your shame at the door. We’re all human.
Gaming—and screen-time in general—is a sore spot in many parent-child relationships. It’s hard to imagine eliminating these activities because, as you said, your kids enjoy playing video games, and you enjoy having some space. Not to mention that screen-time has become an undeniable part of children’s social lives.
But of course, “too much” of anything can be a problem.
So what constitutes “too much” in terms of gaming? The answer: It depends.
Rest assured that you probably don’t have to put an end to your kids’ gaming. This kind of hobby can have a place in a healthy, well-rounded child’s life. The issue is when it becomes an addiction.
I did a webinar with Cam Adair (founder of Game Quitters, the world’s largest support platform), who once struggled with video game addiction. He dropped out of school, lied to his parents about having a job, and eventually experienced suicidal ideation. At the height of his problem, he was gaming 16 hours a day.
We talked about how one of the risk factors for full-fledged gaming addiction is using video games as a coping mechanism or a means of escape. The amount of time someone spends gaming matters much less than why they’re gaming in the first place.
Here’s a good litmus test: If your child is gaming and you ask them to stop—for dinner, homework, or something else—are they capable of easily walking away? If so, there may not be cause for concern.
If they have trouble walking away, there may not be cause for concern either. If they are in the middle of getting to that next level at the very moment you call for them, they may just need a few more minutes!
It’s also important to take a holistic view of your kids’ lives outside of gaming.
Are they doing well in school?
Do they have nice friends?
Are they generally kind and happy?
Do they get proper exercise and nutrition?
The answers to those questions will help you determine if playing video games is a solution for another problem—or just another activity that brings your children joy.
If you are concerned, Game Quitters—Cam’s game addiction support community—is an excellent resource. But first, start a conversation with your kids about their gaming habits. Good old-fashioned quality time and better parent-child communication may be enough to keep them from entering unhealthy territory.
Tell your child that you want to spend time together as a family, and be sure to plan activities that excite them. Steer clear of using power and control because that is guaranteed to activate the 3Rs (retaliation, rebellion and resistance) and generate a resentment flow.
I hope this response gave you some peace of mind, Guilty As Charged. Your kids’ love for video games is likely healthy and normal.
Love and Blessings,
P.S.: Do you have a gut feeling that your kid’s gaming obsession is an escape from other unmet needs? Watch our free webinar and take a deeper dive to understand how to get rid of retaliation, rebellion and resistance here.