Many children and youths face the problem of not knowing when to stop when they are absorbed in gaming. That’s why it is common to see them glued to their screens playing computer games for hours on end.
What exactly makes computer games so appealing and addictive? How can parents step in to help manage their children’s screen time? TOUCH Cyber Wellness shares more.
Gone are the days where the only games we played on our mobile phones’ dull monochrome screens were simple games such as Tetris and Snake. These days, computer games are highly appealing to children not only because of the convenience of play on platforms such as computers and smart devices, but also because they feature elements such as:
- engaging storylines to keep players engaged, which make them want to achieve various in-game goals, and progress in the game journey to see what comes next;
- impressive and realistic graphics and sound to help players remain immersed in the game;
- multi-player and team functions which allow players to play and compete with friends and even other players around the world simultaneously. Most also allow players to chat with each other in the game.
There are many genres of games available in the market, but the most addictive genres are the Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs), Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) and Battle Royale themed games. Apart from the usual gun-shooting themes we may be familiar with, today’s computer games also include strategy, dance, fashion, magic and mystical themes which appeal to both male and female players. Some of the more popular games in Singapore are Fortnight, Player Unknown Battle Ground (PUBG), Mobile Legends, and Brawl Stars.
Computer gaming can be a good mode of entertainment and relaxation for your child. However, it becomes a cause for concern when your child’s gaming habits get out of control and hinder important priorities in his/her life such as going to school, socialising with friends in real life, and making time for family.
Here are five tips you may try adopting to help manage your child’s gaming and screen time:
1. Establish firm guidelines before devices are switched on
- Duration of play time and the type of game (content)
- List down the consequences of a broken agreement
- Without guidelines and an agreement, it would be hard to put an end to the gaming session once the child gets too immersed in it. This would usually result in tantrums.
2. Give a specific end time
- For younger children below the age of seven, time may be an abstract concept to understand. They may not be able to understand the notion of “five minutes”.
- Using terms like “three levels/stages” or “three rounds” in a game would be easier for younger children to comprehend.
- Give a specific endpoint (e.g. “stop at 7pm” instead of “you have 30 minutes”)
3. Provide cues to prepare a transition away from screens
- Prime children cognitively
- For children aged 7 to 10, countdown from 10 to the end of game session.
- For pre-schoolers, inform them of the last level/round, or alert them once the round ends.
- Such cues will help ease them away from the state of being too immersed in the game and prevent them from losing track of time.
- Maintain eye contact with them and ensure their response and acknowledgement.
4. Encourage children to switch off devices on their own
- Refrain from snatching away the device abruptly
- Letting children switch off the device on their own enables them to feel that they are in control and demonstrate positive behaviour.
5. Have an appealing transition activity that expels their energy
- Plan an enjoyable activity that would help children expend some of their pent-up energy from screen time. (e.g. hands-on craft sessions, swimming, football, badminton etc)
- When a child still wilfully breaks the rules, parents should be firm to enforce rules with direct logical consequences (e.g. withdrawal of gadget privileges)
We hope that this article has helped you understand why your child may be overly absorbed in gaming, and enabled you to take the next step in managing your child’s screen time.
TOUCH Cyber Wellness (TCW) is a pioneer and leading non-profit agency that champions cyber wellness and media literacy education in Singapore. Since 2001, TCW has reached more than 320 schools and one million youths, parents, educators and counsellors through its education, advocacy and intervention efforts.
Want to know more on the latest online trends that may be affecting your child? Need to speak with an expert on your child’s mobile device usage habits? Get in touch with TOUCH Cyber Wellness here!
For more articles on cyber wellness, check out notAnoobie.online, an online cyber wellness resource for parents by TOUCH Cyber Wellness and Singtel.