A psychologist from Children’s Health shares his tips on how to establish healthy video game habits
Video games are very popular with children, teenagers, and adults. The latest consoles and games are often on everyone’s wish list in school and at dinner. Parents may be concerned about their children’s interest in video games. Especially those with violence and fighting.
There has been mixed research on the link between violent video games and aggressive behavior. However, a new international study indicates that this may be true for some children over time. Nicholas J. Westers explains how the issue of violent video games isn’t one-size-fits-all.
Dr. Westers says it’s difficult to establish a link between violent video games and aggressive behavior. Still, the new study indicates that some children who play these games show increased physical aggression with time. When played responsibly, video games can be a healthy and fun hobby for adults and children. “Parents know their children , and they must work together to make norms for video games.”
Dr. Westers advises encouraging healthy media habits and explains the relationship between video games, behavior, and gaming.
Why can violent video games lead to violence?
Recent research included a large-scale, global study that synthesized all the long-term studies of children worldwide. Researchers discovered that certain kids are more likely to display aggressive behavior. Dr. Westers cautions parents that linking video games with behavior is difficult.
Adolescents tend to imitate people or characters that they identify with. Children and adolescents who identify with individuals in media, such as TV, movies, or on the internet, are more likely than others to emulate their opinions and actions. Others believe that the same could happen with videogames.
What can I do to encourage healthy gaming?
Dr. Westers says a good relationship with parents is the best protection against problematic behavior or mental health problems. Children feel more comfortable talking to their parents when there is a good connection. Parents are also more likely to recognize and empathize with children.
Dr. Westers suggests two easy ways to develop healthy video game behaviors.
1. Set rules for video game usage
Dr. Westers says that video games are a privilege and not a right. Parents need to set clear and consistent rules for playing games.
These rules should include
- Video games for children
- How long can they play?
- Before playing video games, you must complete your homework, chores, or other responsibilities.
- Sportsmanship and proper behavior during play, including how to react when you win or lose
It can be difficult for parents to set rules about video game play when it is their child’s favorite activity. These guidelines can help prevent children from playing video games too long. This can lead to an unhealthy cycle of eating, lack of sleep, and feelings of depression or unhappiness. Limiting play can prevent the negative effects video games have on behavior. Dr. Westers says that it is unlikely that a child or teen will set limits when engaging in an activity for fun, especially if the activity may be used to escape. They need the help of their parents to learn self-control and set limits.
Dr. Westers says, “It is better to set rules earlier rather than later.” It’s difficult to limit video games once they start playing. To set a good example, parents should remember that the rules also apply to themselves.
2. Play together to show empathy.
Dr. Westers claims that parental involvement is crucial to all relationships with children. It’s the same with video games and anything else. It’s easier for parents to model good behavior and talk about what their children see when they are involved. Sharing a common interest like video games is an excellent way to connect with your children.
Dr. Westers suggests that parents separate the reality of video games from what happens on screen when playing.
He says, “Show Empathy.” Talk to your child about the feelings you get when a character is hurt, or someone else gets hurt, and compare that to what you would feel if it happened in real life. Tell your child what your family values are and which real-life behaviors you will not tolerate.
Take the time to discuss certain situations or lessons that you can apply, such as how you feel when winning or losing.
Dr. Westers says that video games can evoke many emotions, from excitement to frustration. Talk about sportsmanship and how to deal with these feelings.
It helps them learn to control their emotions, which they can apply daily. They are also more open to parents’ concerns.
Dr. Westers says that when parents express concern about violent games, their children will listen more because they come from an experience and understanding. Dr. Westers explains, “That doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll like it. But they’re more likely to listen to you, especially if they’ve played the video game you’re concerned about with you.”
What are the warning signs I should be on the lookout for?
Parents are the best people to know their children. Dr. Westers urges parents to speak with their children if they are concerned about video games or behavior. Look for these concerns that may become red flags.
- An increase in aggression could be a sign that children are learning violence through gaming
- Changes in behavior, such as social isolation or declining grades in school
- Sleeping difficulties
- The real-life equivalents of weapons in video games are attracting increased or unusual interest
Video games can have a variety of effects on behavior.
Dr. Westers explains that when taken separately, these signals can indicate various things. They should not be dismissed as typical teenage behavior if they occur together. Talk to your child and try to find out what is bothering them. If you’re still worried, talk to your child’s doctor or mental health specialist.
If parents are worried that their child plays video games too often and is changing their behavior, they can look for early symptoms of video game addiction.