It is 2019, screens are everywhere. People have screens in every room of their house, in their car, and tablets on the go. Kids are exposed to screen time at school and almost anywhere they go. Right now, the video game market is booming. Thanks to the rise of YouTube stars like Unspeakable and DanTDM your kids are becoming more and more obsessed with gaming.
Finding Balance Between Real Life and Video Gaming. . . . .
Finding a balance between real life and video gaming is becoming a top struggle for families all over the world. I have had personal experience in this. My eldest son, Sebastian, is on the autism spectrum. Video games became a way I could connect with him. So, I didn’t limit his time playing Minecraft or watching Minecraft YouTube videos. Soon my son didn’t want to do anything else. He would have giant meltdowns if I asked him to go to the park with his brothers and I. If I turned off YouTube he would tell me how horrible his life is and he wants to die. My kid is eight-years-old.
First step was the hardest. We took away all gaming and hid the consoles. We turned off his TV and removed it from his bedroom. (It is still gone to this day.) Every day he would beg me for YouTube or Nintendo and I would say no. I’d sit down and try to reason with him that we need to find other things to do, such as build Lego, make his bed, or go play outside. Being on the spectrum he usually hated all of those things with the exception of building with Lego.
His response to turning off the screen was absolutely terrifying. We found ourselves in hospital getting him screened as a suicide risk. It was then that we realized there is only one thing left to do. . . . Cut out YouTube and Video Games. The intent was never meant to be forever, but I needed to show him he could live without his Wii U or Nintendo Switch. That he didn’t need YouTube to fall asleep.
Using Screen Time as a Reward
I would sit with him on the floor at the Lego table and convince him of all the cool things we could build. Soon he was distracted by building Minecraft landscapes and making up scenarios between Alex and Steve, characters from Minecraft. The ultimate goal was to get him to go a full month without YouTube and video games. Give him time to realize he can survive without them and find other productive things to do. I bought him gaming manuals and instead of playing games he would read about them. The first two weeks were hard, but by the end of the month I had a kid who now appreciates every ounce of time he gets with video games and YouTube.
Once Sebastian was thriving without video games, I slowly brought them back into his life as a reward. If he wants to play he has to do his chores, make his bed, and spend time interacting with his brothers. I also encourage him to play outside on nice days before we power on one of our gaming consoles. The results are incredible. He truly appreciates video games and YouTube now. I don’t have melt downs over being able to play or not. I give him an hour to two hours a day max. He chooses to use his time playing mostly, and then the last thirty minutes or so he watches gaming news on YouTube.
Results. . . .
The lack of constant video games has also lead to the emergence of other skills he wants to learn. I bought him a coding for kids book, and he has been reading it every night. My eight-year-old has a desire to learn coding. Mind. Blown.
I have implemented the same time constraints with my younger two children as well. We also sit down and play video games as a family once or twice a week. Using video games to promote family bonding. Last night we raged together over the difficulty of Cuphead! We all were sitting in my bed laughing at the fact none of us were doing well at the game.
In the end, it is all about balance. Learning what your child personally needs and how to twist video games to your benefit as a parent. Pick the right games to tailor to what you want your child to garner from them. My favorites are Minecraft, Pokemon Let’s Go, Mario, and Splatoon. Splatoon you have to watch the banners some players make, but for the most part it is a safe and fun kid game.
Writer of novels and mom of three very rambunctious boys, Anna fell into gaming out of necessity. Her oldest child is on the autism spectrum and through Splatoon on the Wii U she was able to build a connection with him.