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:

  1. "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.

  2. "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".

  3. "Block his ability to install apps on the phone, uninstall all games, lock it down."

    I already did.

  4. "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.

  5. "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.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Rory Alsop Mar 7 at 22:25
  • 4
    @Francne - if you have an answer please post it as an answer. Comments are meant to be temporary and only to ask for clarification etc. – Rory Alsop Mar 7 at 22:25
  • 28
    To the OP: You devoted a significant amount of space in your original post to outlining the problems of your son's game of choice, so please don't be put off when the answers also spend a significant amount of time addressing them. I've edited the title to redirect future answers. I hope that's helpful. There is wisdom in the answers, even if it may be tangential to the main point. Please flag for moderator attention if it's not helpful. Thanks. – anongoodnurse Mar 8 at 16:44
  • 3
    So to clarify, you haven't just taken away these games, but also all of his access to the internet besides messaging? Does he have internet access on any other devices, perhaps supervised? – Zach Lipton Mar 8 at 18:18
  • 7
    So how has your son responded to these new restrictions? What is he doing with his free time now? – Glen Pierce Mar 9 at 4:44

18 Answers 18

When I was around your son's age, my mother was worried I was playing too many video games. Her strategy was to get me involved in other after-school activities, like theater, which I ended up loving.

As long as this is your child's only peer group, and that is their only activity, the game will be irresistible. He'll need something else to fill the gap --music, or sports, or art --and other kids to be around, whose parents have made similar decisions as you have. The peer group is EVERYTHING at this age. (You also could probably benefit from the moral support of a group of like-minded parents.)

If he does develop other interests, it's possible you might eventually be able to relax the rules without him going crazy. For what it's worth, even though my mother never actually forbade video games for me, I just never got as deeply into them as my peers, because I had so many other things I was interested in. I won't claim I never went through the occasional video game binge, but it never lasted. I'm pursuing a similar strategy with my own kids (a little younger than yours) and it seems to be working out so far. (Although nowadays my mother seems completely unconcerned about letting my kids play games at her house --go figure!)

NOTE: Based on edits to the original question, plus comments made on this one, I ended up posting a second answer that suggests ways to try to work with the other parents affected, instead of giving up on this peer group. I'm leaving this answer here because I think this may still be the best solution for some parents with similar situations to the OP.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – anongoodnurse Mar 8 at 16:04
  • Consider adding STEM (or STEAM) to the list of "music, sports, or art". For example, the kid might take an interest in writing software or soldering circuits or really take to biology or architecture. And "sports" might be broken into traditional (soccer mom) and non-traditional (curling/bobsledding mom) categories. – CubicleSoft Mar 19 at 4:18
  • this raises an important point: you cannot simply create a vacuum. you must replace the addiction with another. – tuskiomi Mar 19 at 13:57

He's a 10 year old boy. He's going to display addicting behavior. I and my friends at that age had a shoebox full of baseball cards, and all we talked about was the big league baseball team for our city.

Banning us from buying more cards, or forbidding us to play with them, or listening to the games on the radio wasn't the answer then, and it isn't now.

That said, as a parent, we have to help our kids learn to make good decisions, and sometimes, that means stepping in and taking control of the situation. If he doesn't learn it now, it could be worse when he gets older, because the consequences will be much worse.

Full disclosure: I'm a parent of a 10 and 13 year old, a successful computer programmer, a chess coach, and I've been playing Clash Royale for a year with my kids and their cousins. I've used this and other online games to teach various life lessons. These include:

  • Money management. Adjust to the kid, but my kids split any money the get between savings, charity, and free spending money. My kids have bought pokeman cards, online memberships to games, and other things with their free money. Buying gems and chests in Clash Royale is a wonderful lesson, because in the end, you don't get very far up the food chain. That said, as long as we are paying for the service, we have a password on the phone for cash purposes, and we don't enter that password without their cash in our hand.
  • Discipline. Kids can open chests in the morning or after school, but no battling until homework and chores are done. Carrot, not stick.
  • Teamwork. Clash Royale has a great 2v2 mode which you can play with your kids and work together as a team. Let him teach you how to play, it'll be good for him to learn how to teach others.
  • Creativity. This game allows many different playing styles. I tend to play a rather defensive style (like my chess playing), which makes my opponents think. Those that can't adjust during the battle lose.
  • Planning. There are over 80 cards in the game, and you get to choose which 8 you use. You can't max out all 80 cards, so you have to make a plan of which 8 cards you will max out.
  • Persistence. You only will ever win half you battles. It isn't how many times you get knocked down, it is how many times you get back up. My son had a hard time with this one.
  • Marketing. Better learn the psychology that these games use at 10 years old before he gets in a casino and gets addicted to gambling. It's the same techniques. Actually, last time I was in Las Vegas, I found I had more fun playing Clash Royale with the kids.

My kids are different from your kids which are different from someone else's kids. But if you use this experience as a way to connect to your kids and watch them learn life lessons (and make reasonable mistakes), you will develop a relationship that will help both of you later in life. He's becoming a teenager, and it is time to morph your relationship appropriately.

Good luck, and there are much, much worse games out there. I still think chess is better, but go with what he gives you. There is a load of information on the web about video game psychology, which games help the brain, and which games do not, and it is all very interesting reading.

  • 3
    Is there any research on whether children handle moderating potentially addictive activities better (i.e. less likely to become addicted, more likely to understand the manipulation) when playing with the parent(s), rather than merely supervised by parents? I was an avid gamer growing up and I still wish my parents would have played some games with me. Thank goodness mobile games weren't around when I grew up... – Matt Chambers Mar 12 at 18:56
  • 18
    The games OP mentions and the game mechanics they use are (obviously imho) geared towards causing maximum addictive behavior. This truly cannot be compared with baseball cards. Hell you cannot even compare them to 'normal' video games. Normal video games are addictive but these games OP mentions really take that to a whole new level. Their addictiveness approaches that of slot machines. Parents really are up against a formidable challenge with these games. Do not underestimate them! – Stijn de Witt Mar 13 at 13:12
  • 1
    @StijndeWitt - You have valuable insights, here and in the (deleted) comment you left under the OP's post. It would be great if you posted an answer. :) (I can provide you with the deleted comment if you like. If so, just ping me in chat.) – anongoodnurse Mar 14 at 2:33

Jeez...

Well, 10 years old may be old enough to explain the monster of capitalism and the design of everything around as a scam to nickel and dime you into a life of scraping by just to make someone else rich. You may need to abstract it a bit to make it comprehensible, but personally I think this is not a lesson in reasons to stop playing Clash of Clans, but a lesson in avoiding ALL business models constructed on predatorial foundations.

You're going up against a wealth of intelligent, greedy digital drug dealers, so you can't just march in hoping an angry tone and a waving finger is going to break his interest (may not be an addiction just yet). You may need to push the psychology back against them and turn their deceit into an advantage for your son.

You don't get rich by answering the ad. You get rich by placing the ad.

And that may effectively be the only advise to get him to examine the game instead of fall for it. Perhaps you should take an interest in it. Ask him to watch him play, point out things, casually drop in how the psychology of this design works and ask him if he wants to play on those days just to earn some kind of credit or whatever else the game does when it's not trying to get you to waste your money on it. Explain why as he goes on and see if you can convert his need to gather meaningless trophies in a game into an understanding of why they put those trophies in there in the first place, and why it doesn't matter if he gathers them or not.

In the end, the goal is to see if he can understand the design of the game as less of a game than an elaborate trick to pit impatience and pocket change against small dollar conveniences in a race to see which will cave in first. If you can explain the perspective of the mass population and the probability their boredom will gladly sacrifice a dollar or two to get through another boring evening without absolutely crushing his opinion of the future for all human kind, then you may be able to convert this interest in a bottom feeding game into an awareness that ALL businesses and services, games, pass times, activities, festivals, malls, etc are there to try to get you to give them what you have, or get you to sign up for something that gets you to promise to give what you don't have yet. And the few who aren't... well, good for them. But if he learns that everything is a scam, or whatever more polite word you want to use to, he may be less likely to jump on board with those small dollar pass times and grow the perspective of the one placing the ad.

I'm not suggesting he adopts the greed to become the one behind the design, but if he understands the game (of life, not Clash of Clans) he may come up with his own design, and the desire to implement it. In the end, it might be an interest in a predatorial game in combination with your willingness to watch and explain it as he plays that gets him into software development, game design, and a model of his own (hopefully less pathetic than Clash of Clans) and a life where he is being paid for his goods or services and not the one paying for them.

  • 3
    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. And it's interesting reading. – anongoodnurse Mar 8 at 3:49

Although my previous answer is highly rated, the recent edits to the question have changed it dramatically, so this new answer is targeted to the edited question.

Given the smallness of your community, and the tight-knit nature of your son's peer group, this is not a problem you will be able to solve on your own. You need to reach out to the parents of the other boys to express your concerns, even if you suspect they will not be receptive. It will be important not to come across as chastising or judging them, but just as looking for support and advice.

Even the parents who are avid gamers themselves may be concerned about the single-mindedness of their children, and the fact that they are spending money. (In fact, the avid gamers might even be more sensitive to the dangers.) The hope is that you might collectively be able to find ways to encourage your children to at least occasionally do some other activities together, such as camping, sports, art, music, scouting, boardgames, or rock climbing (thanks to @AndreiROM for this good suggestion).

In turn, you might agree to let your son do some gaming with his friends, as long as it isn't the only thing he does with them. In my experience, what's most harmful isn't the obsessive activity itself, it's the way it crowds everything else out. Something like a once-a-week "tech sabbath" (for instance, no computers, games or phones on Sundays) can really help. It could be something the family could do together, or that you could perhaps even convince some of his friends to sign on for. (I personally do a tech sabbath myself --as a professional programmer it's vital to have at least one day a week I'm not staring at screens.)

  • 9
    +1 for recognizing that this is not the boys problem, but a community problem. – pojo-guy Mar 9 at 12:20

Up front, I'm not a parent, so take my parenting advice with a good handful of salt.

I'm a software developer, I've worked on games very much like Clash of Clans for a number of years and can safely say I'm an authority on the psychology and mechanics of them.

As a child of around your sons age I also had to deal with my parents making efforts to minimise my game-time, so perhaps I can offer some perspective on your son's mindset in this too.

Right off the bat, I think you've done the right thing with the Total-Kill approach (uninstalling and blocking on the phone) Your son has broken your trust by lying about his activities and there should definitely be consequences.

That said, He will undoubtedly be very upset about this (you've probably already had to deal with sulking or tantrums about it by now) and will be trying to find any means to circumvent you.

As a child, my parents set hard limits on my computer time, two hours a day as a maximum. I of course found this intolerable and since the computer was in my room and my parents frequently busy with other things I found it easy to get away with it. Eventually my dad wrote a program to shut down and block access to apps that weren't on a specific list after a certain amount of time each day.

Automation in parenting!

And it worked very very well for about..three weeks. I took the installation of PartyPooper.exe as a declaration of war, went through the files, studied them in depth and learned hexadecimal to rewrite the time-limits. Dad figured it out a week or two later and gave up on that approach. He was simultaneously frustrated and proud of me :P

By removing the app you have set yourself up in a very dominant position, you're now in a position to relax it down to a reasonable set of ground-rules. After all, in moderation it's just a game and he's got a lot of social cache attached to it.

The upshot is that you've done the Stern Hard-love Parenting side of things, been seen as an authority figure. By bending back to moderation you will be seen as being reasonable rather than imposing unreasonable limits when he's already having fun.

You may find that there are parenting apps out there which allow you to lock down the phone, or time-restrict access, they're likely to be more secure than my dad's 20 minute script.

Clash of Clans and its ilk are explicitly designed (seriously, it's in the technical documentation) to have a session-time of about 10 minutes, with repeat visits every few hours.

If you set up a parental-control app to permit access at two or three set times for about half an hour at a time at most, he should have all the time he needs to play the game and keep things moving, without it dominating his every waking hour.

I would also make sure that if he wants to buy things on the app, he has to come through you. it's his money, but you need to be in the loop if it's via your card.

What you need isn't to fully and wholly block access, it's to force a measure of control on him. He needs to have other things in his life that occupy his interest. He needs to be able to switch off from this obsession.

As long as he can do that, he reaps the benefits of an active social life and good times with friends.

There's so much going on here, I don't know where to start.

  1. How is an 10 year old able to spend money online at all? This is one problem. There's no way he should be able to do this without you providing authorization.
  2. Your child has unlimited access to the internet. This is a Bad Idea®. Again, there's no way a 10 year old child should just be able to go somewhere and get on the internet without you knowing about it. For reasons much more serious than him playing Clash Royale. Him getting up in the morning and immediately being able to get on a internet connected device is also an issue.
  3. I've never played Clash Of Clans, but I have played Clash Royale. I played it for a while because my son is into it. I was even in his clan. There's nothing you can do in the game that requires money. You can get things faster and easier by buying them, but unless they've added something in the last month or so since I last played, there's nothing you can't get from just playing.
  4. This particular game is not the issue. You allowing him to have unlimited screen time is the issue. A ten year old should have a limited amount of time per day that he can play on a computer/tablet. Somewhere in the half hour to hour range.

My suggestions:

  1. His device is immediately disconnected from internet. Whenever he wants to access internet, he needs to come to a parent for the password.
  2. Any forms of payment that are set up should be disabled. Again, if he wants to buy something, you approval should be necessary.
  3. Institute a time limit, per day, that he can be on electronic devices, internet connected or not.
  4. I wouldn't worry as much about what games he is playing. There are obviously games and other content on the internet that are very unsuitable for children his age. CoC and CR are not among them.
  5. Devices get put up for the day when time limit is up. Also, you must ask before starting screen time. Things like getting ready for school in the morning and chores and homework in the afternoon should be done before playing on devices.

As for dealing with your son being (not) allowed to do different things than his friends. My explanation would be something along the lines of (names and details modified to your situation, of course): That's how life goes. You are not your friends and your mother and I are not your friends' parents. Billy may get to play Clash Royale, but he only gets to see his dad every other weekend. (Be prepared for a smart-alec response to this). Mark eats school lunch everyday instead of the great home-cooked meal your mother makes you every day. I'm your father and it is my responsibility to make sure you are safe. I have researched these games and determined that they are using psychological tactics on you to get you to spend your money and that you are not old enough to deal with them. As you get older, you will get more freedom and more responsibilities, but for now, this is the decision that your mother and I have made.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Rory Alsop Mar 8 at 22:03
  • Could you expand on this point "Him getting up in the morning and immediately being able to get on a internet connected device is also an issue."? – corsiKa Mar 12 at 20:26

I think the key here is to understand what you're trying to accomplish, in the short term and in the long term.

In the short term, you're trying to avoid harm to your son. You'd like to ensure his grades don't suffer, his sleep is sufficient, etc., if I understand correctly. You'd also like to ensure he is able to interact normally with his peer group and is able to find activities he enjoys.

In the long term, however, the goal is different. In the long term, the goal be that he learns to manage his game playing himself. He needs to be learn how to play a game without it taking over his life, and how to recognize when a game is affecting him inappropriately.

In this, the short term goal and the long term goal conflict, to a large extent (the first set of short-term goals, that is). Shutting him off entirely from the game is an effective way to accomplish those short term goals. However, it has the negative long-term effect of preventing him from learning to manage it himself.

When your son grows up and leaves the house, say to college or similar, he's going to have the same challenges as he has now. Clash of Clans, or something else, will be there, and he'll have lots of friends playing it, most likely. He needs to learn now how to deal with this sort of thing, when you're there to protect him and give him limits that prevent him from falling off the cliff. Those limits, think of them as guard rails, are a good thing. But if you prevent him from climbing the mountain at all, he won't learn to climb it safely, which means when he goes off to college, he falls off the first time he runs into this.

The way he can learn to manage the problem himself is for you to give him reasonable limits, and more importantly to show him the consequences of his actions. Hold him to a reasonable standard of grades, and if his gameplay is affecting his grades, point that out (and limit it, for that reason, for a time, perhaps). If he's behaving poorly in relation to the game, point that out to him, and expect him to act maturely and politely. Relate the specific limits to the specific actions and behaviors. And if he's violating the limits (such as going outside and playing it on wi-fi), again, hold him responsible for that behavior.

Cutting him off entirely, though, will not allow him to learn how to manage the addiction himself. That long-term goal should be ever present, just as important as the short term goals.

As far as spending money on the game, assuming you're just giving him pocket money, I think there's no problem there. He'll learn when he asks you to buy him a new mobile device and you say "well, you need $100 for that, do you have it?", or he wants to go to the movies, etc.; that's the point of pocket money ("allowance" in the US typically) - to help the child learn about budgeting and trade-offs, in a safe space where misallocating funds does not have a significant impact.

I had the same problem with my two kids, one of them is 11 years old. So what I did was to install a parental control software on his cell phone, and he now has only 3 hours a day (between 9 am and 9pm), everyday of free phone use. He still is able to use whatsapp, listen to music and send sms or call somebody outside this three hour limit. On top of that, he goes plays basketball on a local team, and take english lessons (we are from Argentina). The same goes for my little daughter, she goes to a ballet academy and also take english lessons. We started this last year, and now both of my kids hardly ever play on his/her cellphone/tablet.

Video games have become increasingly addictive as developers seek to maintain revenue streams. There are companies dedicated to optimizing in-game purchase prices to maximize in-game revenue. What was once the stress of the how addictive and damaging cigarettes and alcohol are, now applies to games.

Your son is struggling with an addiction and you need to approach the situation accordingly. Approach him with love, but stand firm in your conviction. Discuss how things are going to go and why and be consistent with teaching your son the discipline he needs in this situation.

My recommendation is that you start with complete disconnection games. No phone that can play the game, no other access to the game. Provide alternatives to the game, like @FrancineDeGroodTaylor suggested. Boy Scouts, sports, drama or just doing activities together - the point is don't just remove the game, fill that void with something positive.

Breaking addictions is not easy. You will be up against anger, excuses and attempts to circumvent your rules. Be aware, be patient, be firm but also communicate constantly. Ask him how he feels daily. Let him vent and help him express his feelings in a healthy way.

We love our children and want to protect them. That unfortunately means we need to make hard decisions to help them grow into healthy adults.

Remove the temptation, which it seems like you've already done.

Then give him an alternative.

Get him involved in band, or drama, or sports, or student government. Join the Boy Scouts, learn about microcontrollers or other electronics (one of my favorites). Or maybe even find a different game: League of Legends, StarCraft, Magic: the Gathering. Teens' attention spans, like nature, abhor a vacuum. That way, not only are you replacing the activity with something you find more palatable, but he is then introduced to a whole new group of people/potential friends with whom he already shares a common interest.

Honestly, I think limiting him in any way will only make him increasingly more irritable, antisocial, and resentful of the decisions you're making for him. As an avid gamer myself, my parents severely limited the amount of time that I was allowed on electronic devices, and this had little to no effect on my desire to play games.

As an adult, I find that providing incentives for people to do something you want is a better motivator than punitive action. Instead of limiting his access online, try redirecting the energy he's putting into these specific games into other games or activities that can help him later on. For instance, if he's a real hardcore fan of the game, try getting him to learn to create these games himself with all the things he like about the game and none of the things he dislikes.

This however will be more difficult than it at first seems due to the "boring" aspects of creating a game. What I suggest is working together to create a game, and rather than being dismissive of his wants (to an extent, lashing out is never OK, but can be a sign of ADD or ADHD mixed with ODD, see some of my other answers), you can allow him to be the master of his own world in a way that will amaze his friends; they're who he's trying to impress and interact with on this!

There are so many answers it seems so far that dismiss games as being "gambling and casino monstrosities only designed by greedy corporations to take your money and ruin your life", but if we're being realistic I think that's a bit of a stretch. Now there are some aspects of companies recently in which I believe that's not too far off the mark, but generally games are meant for your enjoyment with passing the time and interacting with people. For instance, I learned how to interact with people socially on online games where I had a tough time doing so outside of them, and I eventually was led to a friend group in which we all felt the same way and were able to express more of what we felt through an anonymous online avatar of power. All of this however was done at little to no cost however, and spending money online can be a honey trap of deception. Only experience and time will help him to differentiate between supporting a company that is making amazing games to share and enjoy and paying a company using harmful attraction to satiate their greed.

The point is that severely limiting his play will be detrimental both now and later on in his life, but redirecting that passion and energy may be a better option in order for him to learn what the benefits and disadvantages of video games are. He has to come to any sort of decision about these on his own; children are notoriously stubborn when it comes to things they do and don't like (I hear brussel sprouts for all of the older folks ;)).

Of course, this is all anecdotal experience, but I am a firm believer that being supportive and loving (while still firm about boundaries like money) his passions and interests is the most effective way to manage his time when he's gaming or online in general.

You already did the right thing - blocked him from getting more of the drug. The other answers are correct, this is an addiction and the people making these games are intentionally making it addictive, with the help of experts, psychologists, etc. That what they are doing is still legal is the real problem, but not one you can solve quickly.

You need to enlist the support of other parents. Contact them and talk to them. While you are probably right about the majority of them, it is unlikely that you are the only person who has seen the problem.

If you can get at least one or two other kids disconnected from the game through their parents, not only have you done them a big service, you have also gotten your son a part of his peer group back, which at that age is terribly important.

I do not advise to give him limited access to the game. Treat it like a drug. Zero is the only safe dosage. However, do let him play other games, which you checked for being not in this class of exploitative addictive. A very reliable indicator is games without any in-game payments - they don't have the commercial motivation to foster addictive playing.

I personally think you should also write your representative with your observations about your son and ask him how it is that the legislative is throwing people in jail for manufacturing and selling chemical drugs, but not this kind of drugs. But that's your call, of course.

Your question is one that more parents should be asking. However, the focus oughtn't be on that your son is "missing out", or that you have wing-clipped him, but rather that you have helped him so he can be more relaxed and can have more free time.

You seem to be fully aware of the negative symptoms of constant playing on the phone. So, already in your mind, you have done the right thing. The problem is to make your son see things the same way. What with peer pressure, and the other parents seemingly not caring, this isn't going to be easy.

Can you meet with the other parents? At least the ones of his closest friends? Explain the situation to them, and if you can get at least one of them to support your approach, then you are halfway to the finish line.

Secondly, since your son is already addicted, you need to somehow deal with the cause of the addiction as well as removing the game... maybe get him interested in reading, sports, computer programming, photography... anything really that would help him focus when he feels that he is "missing out" on the game.

Depending on what his peer group looks like, it could be that a replacement interest could also infect his friends... or...

Good luck in any case. I managed to partly avoid this issue with my sons... by limiting / restricting smart phone / computer / tablet use, while they were growing up. And... they are surviving without any dramas.

I don't want my son to play these games because they change him in a way I find alarming.

I have sons around the age of your boy as well. They all play clash of clans, too, and I've noticed the same behaviour changes (talking of little else). The game also is a constant source of conflict in our family.

What can I do?

My wife and I started limiting the game time with a point system; the more they helped around the household, the more game time they got. We set a cap at 40 minutes a day and made it hard to actually earn that much playing time each day, but that system didn't work out so well, so now we're back to "you can play when we say you can", and we let them play for maybe twenty minutes a day if we feel they've earned it (which isn't every day), and only when all their homework is done and they've finished practicing their musical intruments etc (it's easy to enforce because none of our children have mobile phones yet - they need our family tablet in order to play).

We see little value in completely forbidding them to play. While you may be right that these games are addicting, a lot of things in life are, and we feel we have to teach them how do deal with that before they become teenagers and we lose more of our influence to their peers.

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.

Trust that the friendships are stable enough to survive this. You say it took your son a long time to make these boys his friends. Games are fascinating to kids, but most kids aren't stupid. If one of them is forbidden to play, or forbidden to play except half an hour every other day, if the friendship was worth anything at all before clash of clans happened, it will hold.

I am quite convinced that some of his friends' parents don't see the problem I do

That's possible. But maybe a few of them also think that excessive gaming isn't good for their kid, and only allow it because all the other parents do. So limiting your son's exposure to the game might help these parents do the same with their kids.

I'd suggest a game-time reduction, not complete shutdown. This is much easier to sell to other parents; if you can talk to two or three of your son's friend's parents and reach an agreement that you'll all try to reduce the amount of time the boys play, that should go a long way in solving some of your problems, and it has a much higher chance of actually suceeding than if you try to convince other parents that a zero-tolerance-policy is the only way forward.

Of course things are easier if the boys actually have other things to do besides playing computer games. We live near a forest, and my kids like playing soccer and ping-pong, so that helps.

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.

Make it absolutely clear that they won't be allowed to play after their alloted time for the day. If these boys are anything like my kids and their friends, they will get bored and start to think about what else they could do.

If it's really like you say, maybe providing the boys with something cool to do might remind them that there are other things they can do together besides playing computer games. If you live near a forest, have your husband goad them into a pine-cone fight. Give them materials to set up their own tree house. Or maybe there's a wall that needs painting and you can turn it over to them, with the explicit orders to paint it any way they like. Near a beach? Water and dirt - that's perfect. Winter? No problem, show them how to build an igloo. Or start a snowball fight. There's tons of things boys love to do; just because they've discovered video games doesn't mean they don't love doing these things any more.

I regularly goad my son's friends into snow-ball fights and ping-pong matches. They love competing against adults, especially if they have a chance at winning. Try playing soccer with three ten-year-olds, and you know what I mean.

Sometimes I think video games are just a poor substitute for human interaction. Offer kids a bit of your time, and they jump at the opportunity to do something with you. I fear that won't work much longer - once they're thirteen, fourteen, I guess they'll have their own priorities. But for now, it might be a way to remind them there are other things they love to do.

block his ability to install apps on the phone, uninstall all games, lock it down

he's 10. Why does he need the ability to do more than communicate (with you) on his phone? He will survive not having full access to our brave new world.

I don't care what anybody says, there is no NEED for a child to have unfettered, unsupervised access to the WWW, to chats, and to social media. A lot of people will be horrified by this concept, but reality is different from the delusion we live in that it's a necessity, and should start as young as possible.

I grew up with the boom of the internet, and was privileged enough to use computers from a very young age, before a PC in every home was a reality. The last thing you want, I assure you, is to allow the internet and social media to raise your child. It took me years to get my mind and thoughts back to normal after I was given free reign as a teenager, and this was before broadband and what we know as social media.

Also, the implication here is that he is following the crowd, cannot possibly imagine not following the crowd, and in effect, is not thinking for himself. This is proven by his inability to put down the game; it controls his actions and consumes his thoughts. He's a kid, he's susceptible to this sort of thing. A lot of adults are, too, but children are especially impressionable.

Moreover, if his friends will not be his friend because he does not play a cash-grab game, they are not his friends and should be removed from his life as soon as possible. They will lead him to disaster.

Forget the other parents. Their opinions on your parenting are meaningless unless for really solid reason, like abuse, neglect, etc. Forget the other kids. Your concern is your child. If the other parents kids are behaving this way, and they don't mind, that is their affair. You clearly want what is best for yours, and your child clearly is being negatively affected. This isn't healthy.

Please note that some say it is a harmless game, but this is not the case. The game is causing harm, and therefore is harmful for him. Example: I had no problems with World of Warcraft, enjoyed it, and could stop playing whenever I felt like it. A friend of mine became pale, unhealthy, flaked out on work, lost days of sleep, and started to look like a ghoul. He would also feel great self-loathing if he made a mistake that would cause other players to "wipe" (raids, group efforts that end when everyone dies). The game was harmless to me, quite harmful to him. Some people can have a few drinks, some people destroy their lives.

Short summary:

Learn from the game how your son's brain works, use that knowledge for outstanding goals and convince his friend's parents when it works.

Learn from that game. These games understand the psychology of your son's brain pretty well. They just choose to use that knowledge in order to waste the lifetime of your child for selfish purposes and call it fun. Only, sitting motionless in front of a screen achieving pseudo success is not really fun, no matter how it feels.

Such games (all of the endless ones) do the right things for the wrong reasons. Games like 'Beyond good and evil' (the old one) are more like a long movie and I have nothing against them.

I always say: film yourself for two hours over the top of your monitor. Then get some friends and popcorn and watch the movie of your life. Decide for yourself whether it's an exciting movie.

Have you tried to gamify a few aspects of his life where it actually has a huge positive long term impact on his skills, his knowledge or his health? If you tried to apply some of the game's tricks where it's benefitial, you and your son might be playing one of the most amazing games of his life together.

Behavior that gets reinforced gets repeated. The goal is to find the reinforcements that a: work and b: eventually make the son own the choices that result from it.

And when that works, you could approach some of the other parents and help them rescue their children since they all suffer from the same fun fallacy.

"all his friends partake in" is not necessarily set in stone.

Get Cialdini's book called 'Influence'. It'll explain concepts such as:

Scarcity

Stuff that is hard to get and rare is perceived more valuable than if everybody had access to it.

Also: rewards make a bigger impact if they don't always happen. That's what makes gambling so addictive. Maybe this time...

Urgency

Some games give you 24 coins per day to build stuff. One per hour. But you can only hold 10 at a time. It effectively means: Log in at least three times: once in the morning, once right before you go to sleep and once in between or you feel like losing out.

Factories produce more stuff if you collect ten times a day vs once a day etc. It all aims at rewarding you for making the game an integral part of your life. Or better: not living your life and instead spend your time in a fantasy world.

contrast

A quest that gives a reward worth 10 cents is worth spending an hour because most other quest rewards are 1 or two cents. What in reality is a puny heap of dung gets perceived as a great opportunity.

This is massively enlarged when people think that money is valuable and time isn't, although time is the more precious resource.

Social proof

If lots of people do it and lots of people enjoy it, it can't be bad. Children can be much more partial to social proof from their own age group. They don't necessarily identify themselves with huge giants twice their height and x times their weight who are always right and are allowed to do everything.

All this and more can be used for good if used strategically and intelligently. And consistently.

Then we have the six human needs.

1: Certainty

I know I can feel good when I play the game. If I understand the game, I am in control and I know I can do things right. And I don't really risk anything. I don't really have to be afraid of mistakes like in school where grades are determined by mistakes. Needed breather.

2: Variety

I never know which mission comes next, what the other players will do or which monster hatches from which egg. And it requires constant attention. It doesn't get boring.

3: Significance

My score is higher than the score of 2587 other players and I can do stuff with my gear that other players can't do. Some admire me for what I can do ingame. I am special. I am worthy of attention.

4: Love and connection

I have lots of chats with fellow players. I justify their gaming, they justify my gaming. We share a common interest.

5: Growth

I now have more resources than I had last week. I can do more stuff, learned 5 more spells, have a better weapon now, moved 5 points up the leaderboard. Everything is quantified and I can easily see whether I have become better. I gain freedom through expanded skill. I am more now than I was last week.

6: Contribution

I can teach others the game, I can help others out if they are too weak to kill a certain critter, I can advertise the game so the game will prosper.

Think of needs 1-4 as needs that are nonnegotiable. The brain needs them on a daily basis to feel healthy. And if one activity satisfies them massively, it becomes highly desirable.

The problem is not in playing these games, the problem is in playing these games incessantly. I think these games are rightfully called addictive, as the sources you linked confirm.

You've now cut off his access to these games, which has also cut off his access to an activity that by itself is not harmful, and to interaction with his friends, who still play the game.

So in this case, moderation is the key. This is something he will have to learn in life. As an adult, a glass of alcohol from time to time is fine (although there are exceptions, such as when pregnant or when using medicines that can't be combined with alcohol). A lot of alcohol, every day, is not good at all.

If there's a spare mobile phone or tablet on which his favourite games are installed, you can restrict access pretty easily by restricting access to that device. You can agree with him on play time on that device, at an hour of the day that most of his friends will be online too, so he can play the game with them, without giving him any possibility in engaging in addictive behaviour.

This way you can allow him to partake in a social activity with his friends, without allowing him to get addicted to these mobile games.

This should be a refreshing answer from a "child" 's perspective instead of a parent's.

Everyone, especially young people, needs peer. If with certain games is the only way your son could get together with his friends, don't cut that off thoroughly, it's a stubborn solution and may do more harm.

The prerequisite of my story was that I clearly knew I was born to study and learn. You should at least, make your son know in mind, and agree, that he's born to learn, not play. This, however, IMO, should not need a lot of effort of education.


I'm 18 now and when I was ten to twelve, I was also in a similar situation (yet better). I was resistant to certain kinds of school homework that I did not specifically excel at, and was addicted to an online game similar to CoC and CR.

My mom was brilliant then and she is still brilliant now. She knew I couldn't get much with my friends/peers without playing those games and keeping up with their updates, so she limited my access to computer (phones weren't so prevalent in 2010) to half an hour per day from Mon to Fri, and one hour per day on Sat/Sun (off days). I was allowed to access computer only after I finished my school homework, and if I missed any in the days before, I must catch them up before I could enjoy "today" 's budget.

In addition, she allowed me to earn extra "computer time" budget by doing extra Maths and English exercises, which was the only way to earn such at that time. It sounded like a good deal to me and I wasn't too resistant after some trial run.

It was a great solution. I enjoyed the extra "hard-earned" computer time and in the meantime got catching up with Maths and English. My mom, she killed three stones with one bird.


Now when I review that deal/policy, I can't deny it was great. I can't say for sure now, but I think I would have fallen into some kind of autism or some other mental depression state (the slighest kind). Keeping up with peers is important for kids and teens, so I will never suggest cutting that off completely. And so for adults.

Being addicted to such games is only an indication or expression that a child/teen enjoys spending time with their peer. Teaching kids to balance between work and fun is the correct solution. Tell them it's their duty to study, and motivate them. It's not a problem to play. It's only a problem to play incessively.

For the money part, I suggest that never buy those online credits/diaminds/gems without asking your boy to do anything in exchange. It's also important to let kids know money does not come out of nothing. It's the reward for hard work. Your child should learn to earn money from working, like doing housework or scoring high in school exams. (In fact, I was not quite keen on buying in-game credits with real money, so after trying a few times with a total of less than US$10 (converted), I haven't asked my parents to buy any more in-game credits.)


My situation was, or may have been, better than yours in some ways. For example, I knew in mind that it was my duty to study and learn, as a primary school student, but was simply not motivated to do so.

You don't have to follow my story verbatim. I recommend you change it according to your situation. Every single case is more or less different, after all.

protected by anongoodnurse Mar 8 at 15:54

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.