Ask any child or teenager what they like to do for entertainment and ‘gaming’ will probably top the list. Because it has become such a popular form of entertainment, the term ‘gaming’ now replaces the outdated term ‘playing video games’. According to the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (IGEA), more than two-thirds (around 67%) of Australians play video games. The Digital Australia Report 2014 also tells us that 87% of Aussie gamers are between six and ten and that 96% are between 11 and 15.
Gone are the days when gaming seemed to be purely for teenage boys. The gender split is now 50/50 (47% of females and 53% males) as it has been for around a decade now. However, there is a difference in the types of games girls and boys play. Boys tend to lean more towards action and shooting games whereas girls seem to prefer puzzles and social games.
While you might think these figures are high, it is important to remember that like most things, gaming has its pros and cons. A lot of research has gone into the negative and positive effects of video games. But to know the true impact on the brains of children who started playing from as early as one year old, we will need to wait another two decades.
Video games are not all bad
Let’s start by focusing on the benefits of gaming in effort to avoid being swept up by the shortfalls.
What is it about video games that appeals so much to kids and teens? To eliminate the obvious, video games are play, and play is fun! They are incredibly engaging and when used well can really benefit a child’s development and education.
Improves cognitive function
Games can influence our cognitive, emotional, manual and social skills. For example, if a game involves solving increasingly complex problems within a specific timeframe, gamers can increase their speed in decision making. Quandary is a rather impressive game for your little game-testers, structured to enhance ethical and thinking skills.
Think about the manual skills required to play some of these games. From hand-eye coordination and speed to reading and creativity, video games actively engage the player in a large range of skills.
They can be social
While many parents might worry that their child is disconnected from friends and family when playing games, this could not be further from the truth. Video games can be a very social form of entertainment. Gamers often play with friends online. Games like Minecraft and Roblox allow friends to play and message each other in the game.
When gaming becomes a concern!
As we have seen video games, in moderation, can have a lot of benefits. But when kids and young adults are playing excessively to the point it causes adverse effects, it is time for parents to seriously consider taking action.
Areas of concern include:
1. Video game addiction
Let’s take a look at these in more detail.
Gaming disorders / addiction
Gaming addiction is not yet recognised as a disease in the scientific community. However, it has been observed that excessive video gaming can have serious adverse effects on kids.
When is video game playing considered an addiction? It is impossible to put a figure on the number of hours deemed to be excessive it’s more important to look out for symptoms similar to any addiction. The primary one being that the player becomes completely absorbed and uses games as a coping strategy.
Other signs that your child may be struggling with excessive gaming include:
· Irritability, restlessness, depression and anxiety
· Becoming angry or violent when not able to play
· Lack of sleep
· Lack of physical exercise
· Physical issues such as carpal tunnel syndrome, dry eyes, migraines and back aches
· Isolation from family and friends
· Neglect from school activities and responsibilities
· Lack of interest in other hobbies and school
· Poor eating habits
Gambling in games
The video game and gambling industries share many similarities. They both involve play and engage players in fun and interactive environments. And they both have learned how to hook players in with simulated gambling games, in-game gambling and advertising in video games. Some of these games expose gambling to kids at a very early age. And we know that the younger a person gambles, the more likely they are to find themselves having a gambling issue later in life.
You wouldn’t want your child to watch a film or TV show that is violent, racist or sexist would you? Even the law protects us by making it a crime to expose underage children to R rated (adults only) material.
But how do you know if a game potentially contains violence or other inappropriate content? Unfortunately, you don’t unless you monitor what games they are playing. There is still lots of study to be done on the impact of violent video games on young people yet, studies to date show that exposure to violence, may overtime desensitise youths by numbing them emotionally, cause nightmares and sleep problems, impair school performance, and lead to aggressive behaviour and bullying. (
While no causal link has been discovered between tragedies such as school shootings or between violence in video games and violent behaviour in real life, it is important that your child does not view violence as harmless, funny or even acceptable.
How to set gaming rules for your child?
Aside from the technical aspects such as setting the parental controls on your child’s devices, it is important to acknowledge that you have control over their media and technology consumption. Its important you set boundaries. Here is a list of the ways you can do this.
· Choose appropriate and suitable games – As you would assess the safety of any toy, check the rating of the game, preview it on YouTube and learn what you can about the game.
· Set appropriate time limits – This all depends on your child, their age, the game and other variables. Research has suggested one hour per day taking other variables into account. You should be the one who sets the limits. However, if your child is old enough to understand, you can set a time that you both agree to. An idea is to write limits out on the fridge to make them clear for your child and use an egg timer or timer on your mobile because once they are engrossed in a game, they can lose track of time.
· Make game time a reward – Parents are often looking for ways to reward children for positive behaviour. If gaming works then set your child’s gaming time according to whether they complete chores or maintain good grades at school.
· Have your child play where you can see them – This will make your child aware that you are monitoring the time they spend on a game and what game they are playing. If in a different room, ask them to keep the door open so you are able to walk by and see what they are playing.
· Connect with your child gamer – To keep your child from any potential threats communicate with them about gaming. Sit and watch, or even play the game with them to gain an understanding about its benefits.
· Introduce other fun activities besides gaming – Ensure your child is involved in physical activities such as sports, bike riding, running, reading or playing an instrument.
Do you have concerns for your child and their gaming habits? At Wings Wellness we can help. Contact us today for your free 20 minute consultation.