If you are a parent with video game systems in your home, you have likely witnessed your kids climbing over each other to play the newest titles. While playing in moderation can improve cognitive ability, a poor relationship with gaming could lead to mental health issues. As a parent, it is essential that you instil healthy habits as soon as possible and get your child the help they need if things get out of hand. Below are a few ways to get involved in your child’s gaming hobby.
How Gaming Can Affect Mental Health
There are several ways that gaming can negatively affect your child’s mental health. One issue is that when your kids play multiplayer games with friends or other kids from around the world, they could face the possibility of cyberthreats, including the potential for cyberbullying. Online bullying could be name-calling or teasing if your child does poorly or loses. It could also occur in chat groups between games, and often, it could be other kids at school that are the bullies.
If you fear your child being bullied, sit down and have a candid conversation with them. Urge them to come to you if they are ever in an uncomfortable situation. If necessary, supervise them while they play to ensure their safety.
Next is the possibility that your child could become depressed or upset if they keep losing or they don’t think they are as good at a game as their friends. Games are supposed to be fun. So if your child shows signs of depression, such as irritability, feelings of worthlessness, constant sadness, or sudden changes in weight or appetite, then sit down and ask them how they are feeling and go from there.
Constant gaming can also lead to internet gaming disorder, a syndrome where your kids become so obsessed with the hobby that they start to experience withdrawal, declining interest in other activities, and a loss of friendships or educational opportunities. You may have to intervene if your child can’t pull themselves away from the TV or computer monitor.
Encourage Healthy Habits
You don’t need to wait until your child faces mental health issues to step in and create a positive atmosphere where gaming is a fun pastime instead of an addiction. Instead, put healthy gamer habits in motion now so your children will continue these positive behaviours as they grow older.
The first step you should take is to limit screen time. Set a limit for how long your child can play their game daily and stick to it. The answer may be to literally turn off the TV or internet at a certain time if that is the only way to guarantee that they’ll stop playing. They may also have a hard time sticking to a regular sleeping schedule, as a lot of gamers seem to turn into night owls when they have free time to play. However, explain to them how poor sleep can deteriorate mental health, and help them pick out certain times to play a few hours before bedtime.
Another issue that often affects young gamers is that the obsession becomes so great that they lack the motivation to turn off the game and get physical activity. Consider implementing a rule that for every 60 minutes of gameplay, your child must get up and walk around the block or complete chores around the house. This is another great habit your kids can adopt into adulthood, as exercise boosts mental wellness.
When To Seek Professional Help
Even if you implement healthy habits, it is still important that you keep an eye on your kids and watch for the symptoms of poor mental health. While you may be able to help if your children exhibit mild symptoms, emergency action may be required if they start expressing thoughts of suicide or other major red flags.
If your child starts to show extreme signs of illness, such as an obsession with death, a drastic personality change, a lack of interest in future plans, or exhibiting self-destructive actions, then it is time for professional help.
Several forms of therapy could help your child get back on track. A therapist well-versed in cognitive behavioural therapy can give your kid tactics to cope with unhealthy behaviours and improve their self-confidence. Parents can also go through behavioural therapy to learn ways to strengthen their children's behaviours at home. Family therapy is also an option. While gaming has some benefits in moderation, parents must be a part of the equation to protect their kids adequately. Use these tips to help your children enjoy their youth safely.
If you need to connect with services to assist in helping with unhealthy gambling habits, we suggest the following:
Responsible Gambling Victoria
MacKillop Family Services
This article was submitted by author, Katie Brenneman.