When my son was about 6 years old, my husband made the mistake of introducing him to the PlayStation. He thought it would be a fun thing for them to do together. At first, it seemed like harmless fun. As he grew older, he became more and more intrigued by video games. Around the age of 9, (about the time he discovered Fortnite) he became obsessed.
He is 11 now.
Anyway, he plays basketball and has since Kindergarten. When I realized he had a gaming addiction was when he started not only wanting to play the video game all the time, but he looked at it as more important than basketball. Basketball was his THING! He would come home from school and immediately say "do I have practice tonight?" When I said yes, he would sigh and say "ugh, but I wanted to play my game with my friends."
He would rush through homework so he could have more time playing the game. He wanted to eat dinner in his room so he could play the game. He wasn't sleeping the same, he would stay up late and get up as early as possible. The first thing he did in the morning was hop on the game (if it was a weekend or summer).
Now, I'm not an expert but I can't imagine a gaming addiction is good. Especially when the child starts to put a video game (that has no real value) above all things that actually do, like academics.
I'll admit, sometimes when I was really busy with work or an adult problem, it was easier to just say "yes you can go play the game." He was out of my hair and occupied, it was easy. However, I wasn't doing him any favors by doing that.
So, here's what I did.
I was Gradual About It
I knew I was dealing with an addiction. I have a coffee addiction and if someone took my coffee away without warning, I might have a fit. I didn't just say, "OK no more games" and make him quit cold turkey! I started setting boundaries and let him know he couldn't play the game just anytime he felt like it. I was calm and didn't make it negative at all. I said "we've got a lot of great things we need to start focusing on, so I'm going to need to limit some of your video games a little bit so we have time for these other important things in life." I was positive and didn't make it an argument. I started out with limiting to 1.5 hours on a school night, and if it was the weekend I would give him 2 hours. Then, gradually would make the limit a little less and a little less. Over time, it got easier and easier and once the addiction was broken he barely missed it.
I Took Away Easy Access
I moved the gaming system away from his room. I didn't want him to have such easy access to it. I put it in our family room. This was good because if we wanted to watch TV, then he knew for sure he couldn't argue about the video games because we were using the TV and well... we're the parents. He couldn't sneak on the game because we would know. It's much easier to sneak on the gaming system it if it's in your bedroom. I was very positive when I moved it to another location. I didn't do it as a "punishment." I knew if I wanted to help my child break this, I would need to be positive and not do it in a threatening or punishing way.
I Stopped Using it as a Reward
In the past I would try to limit the game time but failed. I think one of the reasons was because I was using it as a reward.
If you clean your room, you can play the game. If you get a good grade, you can play the game. If you score during your basketball game, I'll buy you a playstation gift card so you can get Fortnite upgrades. If you read a book, I'll let you play the game.
OH my gosh, why did I do that?
I was teaching him that the reward was always the video game, instead of the actual task itself. Getting a good grade is a huge accomplishment in itself, that's the reward. Scoring in your basketball game is the reward itself. I was teaching him that those things were just "pointless things that had to be done so I can get my game back." All I was doing was allowing his focus to remain on the video game! I stopped doing this. If I wanted to reward him with something, it would be a trip to the arcade or maybe an after-game ice cream. Be careful using the game as a reward!
I Switched His Focus to Other Things
I started getting him interested in other things. My husband started taking him golfing and he loved it. He realized this was way more fun than a video game! I tried filling his time with other things like helping me cook, chores, walking the dog, raking leaves, yard work, learning magic tricks, making slime, throwing a football back and forth, going on walks, playing outside, going on hikes through the yard... you name it, I did it. Anything I could do to fill his time so he didn't start thinking about that video game. I got him excited about school again and worked to help him with assignments.
I Didn't Allow Exceptions
I taught him when his time was up, it was OVER. Not "one more level, or 5 more minutes." He tried this at first, and I walked up and turned it off without a single second of hesitation. I didn't negotiate. He FREAKED out because he didn't get a chance to "save" it. However, he learned really quickly that I meant business. Now, if I say time is up, he says "saving now" and is off within about 2 minutes.
I was able to ween him off of the games in just a few weeks. Now, the game no longer seems to control him and there are days he doesn't even play it or ask about it. For anyone out there struggling with their child being addicted to video games, maybe the action plan I did will help you too. Remember, be positive with them about it and help them through it.
Blissful Blue Jays
*I am not an expert or professional. This is not considered advice, and is only my personal experience. By using this website you agree to the disclaimer.
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