Many parents who have purchased games consoles for their growing children often end up worrying about how wise such a purchase was. It seems that just at the time in their lives when they want to become bedroom recluses we unwittingly provide them with the number one best tool to help them do just that. Most alarmingly recent reports about the detrimental effects of playing too many video games seem to becoming more and more frequent.
A new study, written by Japanese Professor Ryuta Kawashima from Tohoku University indicates that endless exposure to computer games could be leading to stunted development of the brain. Not surprisingly, playing video games only stimulates those parts of the brain that are associated with vision and movement meaning that other areas of cognitive function can be left under developed. Leaving other parts of the brain under stimulated can restrict its ability to learn and according to some research this lack of stimulation can equate to tendencies towards violent behaviour.
So against this background of rather alarming research what can a reasonable parent do to address the situation? Well, you’ll have a real battle on your hands if you try to ban console games entirely and that might be a little too draconian. What’s needed are a series of ground rules that restrict the time spent on a games console and the following are some good places to start:
· Decide how much time you think is appropriate. Do some research and ask other parents at the around the school gate to see what you think is appropriate.
· Make sure that console time finishes at least an hour before bedtime – little neurons need time to de-stimulate before sleep.
· Introduce a range of other activities into your child’s world. You might want to avoid being one of those families that have activities five nights a week plus weekends as well. Allow some down time for them to enjoy their consoles.
· Encourage your child to make the most out of consol time. Use networking to link up and play games with other gamers. This way the time they do have for gaming becomes quality time.
· Set the console system up in a family room where you can monitor what’s going on and how much gaming is going on. You can make life much easier here by also having a family rule that says no TV sets in bedrooms.
· Familiarise yourself with the signs of gaming addiction. Look out for your child becoming withdrawn and isolated.
· Look to create opportunities to play console games with your child so that it becomes a shared experience rather than an isolating one.
· Plan activities that you can take part in together.
Remember that if you introduce a new gaming schedule you may create resentment especially if your child is slightly older and just entering their teens. Set rules that you can enforce and expect to give your child some support in the early days if poor gaming habits already exist. Remember that the key issue you need to follow up on is not stopping when games time runs out. If your child refuses to stop you need to point out consequences and ensure that you stick to them. If your child complains that they are about to lose all of their gold or the fantastic new weapon they just won point them in the direction of the save feature. All games today have ways of saving game play for a later date.