Is Your Child Addicted to Video Games? NJ Therapist’s Advice for Parents
Parents trying to break their children from the addiction of video games and other electronics should first consider how much time they themselves spend on Facebook or smart phone.
That's because kids model adult behavior, cautions New Jersey family and marriage therapist Marty Tashman.
Teaching children how to budget their time playing video games, similar to the way they are taught how to budget money, is good starting point for parents, he says.
"For younger kids, you can have a timer so there's a physical reminder of how long a time that they have," he said.
Set time limits
Setting a concrete time limit and having a sense of consequences can be effective too. Tashman suggests that if a child goes over the time limit one day, those minutes should be deducted from the allowed time the next day.
How much time should parents allow children to spend playing video games? Tashman suggests a total of one hour a day, or two nonconsecutive hours.
"Because what happens is, kids become entranced with it. They lose a sense of time. They're in a sense of flow and all that exists is themselves and the game, and there's no sense of consequence. There's no sense of socialization," he said.
How young is too young?
Tashman suggested not allowing children younger than age 4 or 5 to use tablets.
There are video games that can be beneficial to helping a child learn. Tashman says as long as those games are replacing ones that are mindless or violent, and they aren't taking away from human interaction, than that can be good.
"It's a great idea, but it can't be a substitute for life."
Give them something else
Giving youngsters something to do or to focus on once they've finished playing video games also is important. Tashman suggested setting up social situations, including giving your own time to your child, as an alternative to video games.
"In other words, an after-activity that involves us, that becomes compelling," said Tashman.
Tashman said he likes the idea of kids having friends and working on independent projects.
Stick to your guns
In the beginning, parents trying to change the pattern can expect resistance — and it could take months.
"They're going to really buck you as you start this. It's about being consistent with alternatives, it's about following through," he says. "You'll argue with them, but your youngster has to realize you're the grown up, they're the child and there are some boundaries that you're going to set, even though they're unhappy with it."