Children attend therapy for all kinds of reasons. I counsel children to help address their traumas, depression, anxiety, social problems, ADHD and the list goes on. Most times, parents have to be involved in the therapy because, obviously, they are a huge component in the child’s mental health, alongside being their physical caretakers. There’s a common thread in most cases when I speak to parents and sometimes it’s an afterthought or not the main reason for their child attending therapy. Many of them bring up video games and how their kid plays them too often. Like every waking moment of their life. I feel as if I’m seeing this more and more, this video game syndrome has become quite the monster. Fortnite is apparently the devil.
The usual complaint is that the child plays for hours a day and when they are directed away from the game, they lose their marbles. There are instances of explosive anger, poor frustration tolerance and even deep sadness that occurs once the child has to press that shiny button and shut down his/her game. At times this can even be the main reason for therapy.
It’s all true by the way, kids play video games a lot. I mean, a whole lot. It’s not like when I was a kid, when my brother and I would play street fighter for about an hour and get off in time for dinner. These kids are playing like it’s their job, and sometimes it is! You’ve probably even heard about the world health organization (WHO) recognizing gaming disorder as a mental health condition. Things are apparently pretty bad.
Now I’m not here to put down video games. As a proud Xbox owner I do my fair share of video game playing (I enjoy Overwatch, Elder Scrolls and RPGs for the most part in case you’re wondering). I would actually like to discuss how video games can be used for good. I want parents to stop leaving their kids to themselves in their room for three to four hours at a time, only to be triggered into a rage when they refuse to stop playing. I want parents to get involved and share their time, to take an interest in what their kids are doing, even if they don’t quite understand it.
So here’s my tip for parents, ask your child about what they’re playing. Let them describe it to you, even if it sounds like gibberish. When you have the time, sit down with them and watch them play. Ask if there are games that you could play with them, any good gamer has at least one enjoyable coop game! Let them teach you how to be a gamer and enjoy each other’s company. Kids will never admit it but they actually crave your attention and actually want to spend quality time with you. I’ve asked my own clients about whether or not they would like their parents to take an interest in their games and many responded with a big, fat “Yes”.
Now of course, this does not mean they should be playing all day, every day. Moderation people, it is still important and you need to establish boundaries as needed.
But don’t be afraid. Put your cellphone down for a few minutes (because you definitely have your own addictions) and pick up a controller. Diffuse the video game war by joining the other side, you’ll be happy you did and so will your kid. It could be a great way to bond and to enrich your relationship in the modern age. You may even level up your parenting skills a few times!