Kids have unlimited access to gaming devices. Based on a study done by the Pew Research Center, at least eight in ten teens have a game console at home or access to one.
As a parent/guardian, it’s vital that you help your children exercise self-control and moderation when it comes to video game play.
In as much as playing video games offers cognitive benefits, it can also be very addictive. In this article, I’ll highlight 7 things you should teach your kids about healthy gaming.
No gaming during school hours
You should train your kids not to play computer games when they’re at school.
According to a study published in the Archive of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, children who play video games too frequently spend less time on other activities like reading.
To prevent your child from getting distracted while they’re at school, set controls on their smartphones that disable or block access to video gaming sites.
For instance, you can download a parental control app. This is a program that restricts your child from accidentally or intentionally accessing specific websites. The best apps even let you determine how much time they spend on these devices – and the specific time when this allotment can be used.
Limit screen time
Even if you allow your child to play video games from home, there should be a limit on the number of hours they can play.
While there are no official guidelines on how much time a child can spend gaming, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a total screen time of less than 1 hour per day, especially for children younger than 5. It includes the time your child spends on the phone, playing computer games and watching TV.
This is backed by a study published in Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, which suggests that too much screen time causes a ton of negative effects on kids. Based on their research, kids who spent more than 2 hours of recreational screen time performed poorly in memory, language, attention span and other cognitive-related tests.
The trick to helping your child reduce screen time is to find alternative tasks they can do. Experiment with different activities – cooking, crafts, sports, reading- and see which one piques their interest.
No gaming before bedtime
It’s also important to teach your child not to play computer games or use any electronics right before they go to bed.
Multiple studies have shown that doing either activities interferes with your sleep patterns. Essentially, electronics emit a blue light, which in turn stifles melatonin (this is the hormone that controls our wake and sleep cycles).
The compounded effect from nighttime gaming habits is that it reduces sleep quality by lengthening the amount of time a child takes to fall asleep. It also decreases the time they spend in the deeper stages of sleep.
Another thing you should teach your child is to take frequent breaks during long gaming sessions.
While young gamers have the endurance to play video games for 3 or more hours straight, it’s not advisable to do so. As explained in this article, long gaming sessions can cause stress to build up in one’s body leading to poor performance, burnout and injuries.
How often should they take breaks? The recommended frequency is a 5- to-10 minute break every hour. This means that if you’ve allowed your child to game for 2 hours, they should take a break after the first hour.
Children can get tempted to chow down on junk food when they’re deeply engrossed in their gaming sessions.
Junk food, which is defined as any food that contains loads of calories and minimal nutritional value, has negative effects on kids. It depletes their energy levels, increases the risk of childhood obesity and lowers their self-esteem.
Train your young gamers to swap out those calorie-filled snacks for healthier options. Foods like fruits, vegetables and nuts are rich in a variety of nutrients vital for their development.
Place gaming devices in a common area
One reason why kids easily fall into the temptation of gaming beyond the specified timeframe is due to easy accessibility.
To curb this habit, encourage your child to always store their gaming consoles in a visible place. This way, you can monitor them and ensure that they’re not playing Nintendo games until midnight. This also minimizes the risk of losing gaming equipment, which can set you back a few hundred dollars in replacement.
Maintain proper posture
Many parents view gaming as a sedentary activity with little to zero possibilities of injuries. But the truth is, young gamers face a ton of health risks if they don’t maintain the correct sitting posture.
Carpal tunnel syndrome, back and neck pain are all likely consequences from poor gaming posture. WebMD explains that the more time kids spend gaming every day, the higher the risk of developing complications like finger and wrist pain.
To prevent these, you should teach your youngling the right sitting posture. As cyh.com recommends, this entails:
- Ensuring that your back maintains contact with the backrest of the chair
- Forming a 90-degree angle at your knees
- Placing feet flat on the floor
- Ensuring that you’re not leaning forward or slouching
Whenever your child is playing games on the computer, check their posture to ensure that they’re adhering to the recommended guidelines. And if they are still using a four legged chair to sit on, swap it out with something more ergonomic instead.
If your kids are gaming using their smartphones, ask them not to bend too far forward to avoid suffering from text neck.
Without a doubt, video games are a vital educational tool and source of entertainment for kids. But to ensure your child is reaping maximum benefits from this, you’ll need to teach them healthy gaming habits.
Enlighten them on the effects of nighttime gaming, how to sit in the correct posture and how to snack healthily. You should also train them to place their gaming devices in a common area, limit screen time and take regular breaks.