video game addiction

Breaking the Video Game-Addicted Kid

Several months ago, we took a trip to my sister’s house in another state for a week. My kids love their cousins’ house because they have a big basement that is a toy wonderland. My son immediately zeroed in on the video gaming system. Normally, we have daily time restrictions, but we figured we would let it go since we were on vacation. He played for hours a day, rarely choosing to do anything else. We were surprised by how his personality changed. He became more irritable, self-focused, and prone to disobedience.

We finally decided to cut off his video game time and my son flipped. He was entangled in video game addiction; it had complete control over him. He was getting so much stimulation that it was costing him relationally. So we explained to him that our highest priority as a family is having good relationships with each other; therefore, his gaming cycle needed to be broken. If you have a kid with a video game addiction, here are 3 options you can use to make a change.

Note: I’m not against video games. In fact, I love playing with my kids. However, I have seen the negative effects of video game addiction firsthand, and also have seen the benefits of each of the options below.

Option 1: Designate times.

Video games train kids to expect instant gratification and results. The more they play, the more they expect life to give them things easily. The only way to fight that is to restrict their playing. Limit the amount of time they are able to play video games daily. We used to have half an hour limit each day. Friends of ours have a weekend-only policy. Keeping this restriction will help them understand what it takes to set limits on themselves. Have them set a timer. When the buzzer goes off, the system goes off. If they don’t set the timer and don’t stop voluntarily, then give them a consequence.

Option 2: Make them earn game time.

Option 1 works well, but I must say that this option has been even more effective. This negates some of the feelings of instant gratification because they have to put the work in beforehand. Make them complete their school work and chores in order to play video games. You could also allow them to earn video game time based on how they treat people—particularly you, their mom, and their siblings. This also reduces their sense of entitlement.

Option 3: Take it away.

You can take it away from them in two ways. First, you can take video games away from them as the first consequence of any wrong committed. When they are disobedient, they lose a day. When they lie, they lose a week or more. You can use this in conjunction with option 2. When they are disobedient, they lose the privilege, but they can reduce the lost time by serving the family in a big way. The second way is to get rid of it altogether. A child does not need video games to have a rich childhood. If your child can’t handle it, toss it. Your family may be better off.

Sound off: What strategies have you used with your kids?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What do you think it means to have self-discipline?”