This is about forbidding my son from participating in an activity all his friends partake in, not about the activity itself. How does one go about this when these are his only friends? (Please see edit based on comments before answering. Thanks.)
My son is ten years old and will be eleven this summer. For the past half year he has been playing Clash of Clans and Clash Royale on his mobile phone.
For those of you who are not familiar with free-to-play mobile online games, search for "Clash of Clans addiction" or "Clash Royale addiction" to learn more. In short, the games are designed specifically to induce addiction-like behavior in its players. For example, certain quests can only be played on certain days and the trophies that you have won are not available immediately, but on certain other days, so that players want to be online to play and claim their trophies, making it difficult to abstain. There are other attractors, such as an in-game social network, "clans" that you must regularly participate in, time sensitive enhancements, and so on. On top of that, game play is significantly obstructed if you don't buy certain enhancements, and my son has begun to spend his pocket money for them.
I have observed how my son and his friends, who all play the game too, have changed over the past months. My son can no longer think of anything else. Everything he says or does, outside of school and homework, is related to the game. When he visits his friends, or they come visiting, they all sit bent over their mobile phones and play. When they are not allowed to play, they do not know what to do. Literally. They sit and wait for the time to pass until they may play again.
When my son has to stop playing, for example to eat or go to bed or go to school — yes, the game is the first thing he needs in the morning — he becomes irritable and angry. When I forbid him to play, he lies and tells me he goes outside (for example to play basketball), but I then find him standing in front of our house, where he has WiFi access, playing Clash of Clans.
I don't know how the other kids behave at home, but my son is clearly no longer in control of his life. I have therefore uninstalled the game from his mobile phone and blocked Google Play, so he cannot install it again.
This was fine for him for a few days. But all his friends still play the game and talk about nothing else. And again I mean that literally. There is no male child his age or older that I know who does not play the two games. All his friends boast of their "achievements" in their WhatsApp group, and whenever they meet my son in my presence, I hear how they talk of nothing else.
So basically, my problem comes down to this:
I don't want my son to play these games because they change him in a way I find alarming. At the same time, these games are the only thing all his friends and classmates are (currently) interested in, and I don't want to destroy his friendships for him.
What can I do?
I am quite convinced that some of his friends' parents don't see the problem I do. Some of his peers have TVs and game consoles in their bedrooms and parents who are "avid gamers" themselves. Maybe other kids aren't as addicted as my son is. I found someone online saying that creative kids with a lively imagination are more in danger than those that live more solidly in the real world. However that may be, I don't see the other parents taking the game away from their kids.
I have given this question the tag of "video-games", although those are distinctly different than the mobile games of today, but there was no other more fitting tag. Please edit, if necessary.
Edit based on comments:
"But the game needs a credit card for purchases."
I don't know how these things work in the part of the world where you live, but here every kid can buy a Google Play gift card at any supermarket or kiosk and enter the code on it in the game without any kind of authorization required except their Google password.
I have blocked Google Play, so this is no longer an issue.
"Your child has unlimited access to the internet."
No, he doesn't. I had allowed the games to connect to the internet. Apart from them he only had email and WhatsApp. I have uninstalled and blocked the games, so all he can do "on the internet" is send email and write WhatsApp messages. I don't call that "unlimited".
"Block his ability to install apps on the phone, uninstall all games, lock it down."
I already did.
"This particular game is not the issue."
Maybe not. There have been several studies that found Clash of Clans and similar games to be addictive). But maybe that research is wrong.
However that may be, my question wasn't whether or not those games are problematic, but how to deal with the fact that I have excluded my son from an activity all his friends partake in. I would greatly appreciate it if answerers attempted to actually answer my question instead of forcing their unfounded opinion on me.
"He'll need ... other kids to be around"
They are his classmates and neighbors. There are no other kids, unless we move to a different town.
But I'm not sure that would help. Here, every boy plays those games. All the older siblings play. And I'm sure other towns have smartphones, too.
So the real problem is how to deal with the fact that my son cannot partake in the favourite activity of his age group.
Sure, there certainly are some other kids his age who don't play. But at 10 years, I can no longer force him to be friends with kids he isn't interested in. These are his friends for a reason. It took many years for him to make them his friends, and I can't just replace them with random other kids.