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Scenario:

My neighbor faces the tough situation that his 7 year old boy has started to play video games and he wonders how to stop him from getting addicted to them. Sadly, his wife is no more.. he's a single parent.

How can a parent that works out of the home prevent their child from becoming addicted to video games?

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Kids play video games. Addiction is a tricky word, but, in general, like anything a kid does, the parent should moderate. –  DA01 Aug 30 '12 at 1:38
    
Do you mean that the 7 year old plays computer games while he is at home alone and the father is out working? –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Aug 30 '12 at 15:42
    
@TorbenGundtofte-Bruun the 7 year child often plays whenever his father went to work and mostly in father's presence –  BlueBerry - vignesh4303 Aug 31 '12 at 4:39

4 Answers 4

up vote 10 down vote accepted

It's just like anything else. You set limits and you enforce them. Being a video game enthusiast myself, I wanted to point out a few things you might want to consider in setting those limits.

  • Some games are very easy to set down at any time, and some aren't. Some games can only be saved at fixed checkpoints. Some have cut scenes that can't be paused or replayed. It's very unfair to just walk in and demand a game be stopped right then. Unless it's truly urgent or they've had 15-20 minutes of fair warning, let them get to the next good stopping point.
  • It's easier to enforce a maximum amount of time if you also guarantee a minimum. It's very frustrating to be told, "I think you've been playing 'long enough'" when that number changes every day. Clearly communicate the time limits beforehand.
  • Sit down and watch him play sometimes, or even join in. The benefits of that are twofold: you are bonding by showing an interest in his interests, and you can make sure he is playing appropriate games.
  • Some games are extremely immersive in telling a story the player participates in. These are as hard to put down as a good book, or as hard to leave as a great movie, except the story is 30 to 40 hours long. These games seem very "addictive" during those 40 hours, but once they are done I can go months without playing any games at all.

    I solved this issue by only buying those games at times when being "addicted" for a week or so won't cause any issues. Find out what those games are for your child. Having a large amount of mostly uninterrupted time to play them can be a great reward after not playing any games at all for a while during something like final exams.

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+1 for considering the nature of the games. Being aware of when it's easy for the kid to say "okay" and hit the off switch, avoids encouraging practicing arguing back. It also means you're treating the kid's interests with respect, which means a lot, especially as they get older. I'd +1 again for playing with your son. –  deworde Sep 2 '12 at 9:56

The child is 7, so the parent should still assert a strong influence on him.

Assuming you are talking about home video games (xbox and such) or handhelp (DS and such):

If the child can play a game and stop after half an hour, I do not think they have a problem.

If they are asked to stop after half an hour and refuse to or throws a tantrum, then there should be an appropriate punishment. I'd suggest banning all video game usage for a day. He will learn.

If the child shows no ability to control their video game usage, a total ban may be needed.

My 4yo is fine with iPad, I can stop him pretty easily. If he plays our xbox, however, he will refuse to give it up no matter what. As such, he is allows to play the iPad for short periods and never allowed to play the xbox.

My 10yo has definite rules laid down as to when she is allowed to use our iPad (she has no interest in the xbox and only uses the iPad for reading fan-fiction). Any violation of those rules leads to a 24 hour ban.

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+1: For a set of clear rules. –  deworde Aug 29 '12 at 8:06
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+1 from me as well. I wouldn't actually let them use the computer at all at that age if I wasn't there. –  Rory Alsop Aug 29 '12 at 15:59

Not all video games are bad per se, but playing them to the point of ignoring all other activities (addiction) is going to mean that the child's development and life experiences will suffer. The same problems can be seen with too much social media or texting.

We countered this by planning ahead and arranging as many interesting/fun physical activities as the weather/surroundings would allow - cycling, climbing, hiking, soft play, football, swimming. Inviting their friends/same-aged-relatives along would reinforce the value of the activity.

After expending a bunch of energy with the kids, it was actually useful for them to be able to play games quietly for a while so we could cook, clear up, do paperwork etc. There are a couple of caveats to this, though:

1) make sure the game-playing is done in the lounge - i.e. not the bedroom. We've found that when children have games/DVD/computers in their bedrooms, the battle becomes about territory rather than the particular activity. If the game is portable, establish a rule that it must be played in the lounge.

2) be sure you know what they're playing; games still need to be age-appropriate and not online.

The single fathers I know have used this technique in combination with a daily routine to keep their children's activities balanced.

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You can always use technology to help. One of the issues of getting kids to stop playing games is that the parents are perceived as 'bad parents'. The kids don't react well to nagging, and if they stop playing games at that moment, whose to say they aren't going to resume when you aren't looking?

There are some freely available tools that can help parents deal with this problem. If your child spends a lot of time playing with an Android device, check out Kytephone (www.kytephone.com). It's a free Android app that lets parents set time limits on games. So the parent would just say their child can play games for 1 hour per day, and once that time limit is reached, the game would quit and not run again until the next day.

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