Negotiate with youth to combat Internet, gaming addiction: expert
Maurice Cacho, cp24.com
Published Monday, October 27, 2008 5:44PM EDT
For some youth, seeking a challenge comes from the soccer field or the hockey rink, but for others, it comes from the video gaming arena, shared with online opponents from across the world.
But when the passion for beating the challenges of a game turns into an obsession, parents could begin worry about their children's habits.
Several factors may contribute to internet and gaming addiction amongst youth, says a Kids Help Phone counsellor who helps children deal with these issues, amongst others.
"There's lots of computer games where youth like to have a challenge, and they're always finding another game that's tougher and tougher," says counsellor Cheryl-Lynn Roberts.
She also says children who are preoccupied with gaming may lack balance in other areas of their lives.
"Do they have friends over; do they talk to them on the phone?"
One of the first steps in dealing with someone who has an addiction is to tell them that you see signs and symptoms of addiction -- give children the facts.
Suggesting children do other sorts of activities with parents is also recommended.
"If time is a big crunch for (parents), maybe include (children) in some of the activities that they do," suggests Roberts, admitting many parents are busy working.
Roberts suggests parents also try to negotiate with their kids rather than nagging at them to live a more balanced lifestyle.
"Negotiate with your child instead of saying this is what (the parents are) going to do," she says. "Give them options instead of saying 'I'm going to take this all away from you.'"
Shutting out gaming or the Internet is not recommended, she says.
For example, parents could negotiate seven hours of video gaming per week. If a child decides to use up an hour and a half of their gaming time on Monday, they may only be able to play for a half hour the next day. Roberts says that helps the child make a decision on their own about managing the time they use playing the game.
Roberts also says it may help youth realize the benefit of playing less.
"I like my cheesecake, but if I have five pieces a week, I'm not going to like it so much," says Roberts, as an example.
It's also important to put gaming consoles and/or computers in a central location accessible to the whole family. But moving the Xbox or PS3 out of the bedroom is easier said than done.
"That is a tough one," she admits. "But the parents have to be willing to say, you know what, we made a mistake."
Parents may feel isolated from their kids if children game excessively in their bedrooms, says Roberts, suggesting that parents voice this concern to their kids.
If youth, particularly younger children, throw a temper tantrum, Roberts says parents should listen to what their child has to say.
"Maybe they're trying to explain what's going on inside of them," says Roberts.
While a change in Internet and gaming habits may not happen overnight, it's the long-term change that is important.
What parents want, Roberts says, is for their child to learn how to discipline themselves.