5 Strategies for Curbing the Video Game Obsession

video game kid

Kids are growing up surrounded by technology.  With the constant influx of “educational apps” for tablets and phones and near constant access to games created solely for entertainment purposes, it should come as no surprise that kids are spending too much time plugged in.  Some studies suggest that up to 91% of children play games on a daily basis, and other studies suggest that 10% of video game playing kids show addictive behavior.

While video game addiction is not yet classified as a diagnosis, it’s certainly something to think about.

The truth is that many games are created in a way that stimulates the brain to keep on playing.  Some games introduce new stimuli in 30-second intervals to keep players interested, while others use a system of rewards.  The more rewards a player earns, the more challenges become available. 

If your child plays games for hours on end, constantly seeks game time, lacks other interests, and shows a decrease in social interaction, you might want to reevaluate the use of games in your home.  While some game playing is perfectly healthy, obsessive game playing is not. 

Here are five strategies for curbing the video game obsession:

1. Educate your child:

“Because I said so” rarely works when it comes to curbing bad habits.  Talk to your child about the adverse effects of too much screen time.  Discuss the fact that the brain can become dependent upon constant, immediate input, which can shorten the attention span.  Talk about the decrease in social interaction skills that can occur when gaming becomes the primary source of interaction (think about reading social cues, talking face-to-face, and empathy). 

Be honest about your concerns and take the time to educate your child.  Kids are capable of understanding the information if you present it in a calm and child-friendly manner.

2. Schedule it:

Often kids become fixated on game time because they have unlimited access or they have very limited and/or random access.  Try to remember that screen time is perfectly healthy in moderation (and when games and shows are age appropriate).

Have specific days and times where game time is available, preferably after all responsibilities have been met. 

Set a time limit and use a timer to make sure that the game ends when timer beeps.  You have to supervise game time.  It’s too tempting for a child to just keep playing to meet the next challenge, and many games are created to go on and on and on.  Stick to your limits!

3. Limit access:

You don’t need games on every device or gaming systems attached to every TV in the house.  Allow games on certain devices and make sure that those devices are kept in a central location (the master bedroom is always a good choice) and back in place at least two hours before bedtime.  Games over-stimulate the brain.  Kids need time to calm down following game play.

And please…no screens in the bedroom!

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4. Screen free days:

Designate one or two screen free days each week and stick to it – even you, moms and dads.  Sundays are generally a good day to power down and check out, but try to find a day that works for your family.

5. Provide alternatives:

Sometimes kids just don’t know what to do and they deem everything else boring.  Consider creating an activity jar.  Write a bunch of fun things to do on slips of paper and put them in a large glass jar.  When boredom strikes, head to the jar and choose an activity.  Engage with your child whenever possible – sometimes an art project with a parent can really turn the day around.

Do you worry that your kids are video game obsessed?

What do you think?

5 Strategies for Curbing the Video Game Obsession

Katie Hurley, LCSW is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and writer in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author of "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" and "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World". She earned her BA in Psychology and Women's Studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She divides her time between her family, her private practice and her writing. Passionate about he ... More

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1 comment

  1. love that this is available to read before my baby gets here. now i’ll know what to do. thanks!

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