If your children are anything like mine, they would be on the XBox One and PS4 all holidays if I let them. Mr’s twelve and fifteen have three weeks holidays (yes three weeks, last year the school came up with the brilliant idea of accumulating all of the curriculum days for the year into one week and added the week onto the September school holidays *rolls eyes*), so keeping them occupied for the whole holidays will be challenging to say the least.
Gaming can be a good thing for kids in terms of hand eye coordination, concentration, forward planning, lateral thinking, promote problem solving skills, improving memory and decision-making skills. Studies have also shown that gaming can reduce stress and depression. However, excessive use of gaming can lead to social isolation, addiction, obesity, poor school performance, poor hygiene, desensitisation to violence and changes in behaviour.
So how much gaming is too much? According to child psychologists and studies, ideally, the optimum time a child should spend gaming is between one to three hours a day. Anything more than three hours a day could lead to the issues above.
Here are my tips for keeping gaming time under control:
Set clear usage times
First off, you need to be clear on what gaming is. For us, it is either playing on the PS4 or the XBox One (yes, we have both. The XBox One is in the front living room and the PS4 is in the main lounge room). The boys are pretty good on their ipads and mainly use it for reading, YouTube and movies. Quiz type and educational apps are probably seen as gaming but from my perspective they are learning, so I don’t included apps in “gaming” per se.
During the school term, we have a rule of one hours gaming time during everyday during the week and two hours each day of the weekend. We have a lot of opposition to this usually, as they talk and play games with their friends online and see it as their “social times” and not actual gaming time. My argument is, they can go and see their friends or their friends can come here or they can go somewhere like laser tag, movies, bowling etc if they want to socialise.
I think it is important to encourage kids to socialise face to face and communicate, rather than online. It also helps to develop their independence skills and gets them out of the house for a while (being house bound isn’t good for anyone!).
During the holidays, the gaming time will be changed to two hours a day, same as weekends. It’s also a good idea to monitor what games your children are playing as it is quite easy to download free games. I could go on about parents letting their primary school age kids play M rated games like Call of Duty or Doom but as the saying goes “Not my circus, not my monkeys”. If parents want their kids to access that level of violence at such a young age, that is their prerogative. Nothing I (or professional studies etc) say, it won’t change how they parent their kids. I’ve only just started to let Mr 15 play games like Fallout this year.
Encourage other activities
As mentioned above, I try and encourage the boys to spend time with their friends over the holidays. I have a hard time trying to get Mr15 to make arrangements (Aspergers kids find it hard to get out of their comfort zone and going somewhere loud usually takes a day or so to “recover” from, which tends to put them off from going anywhere) but we usually manage to get him out and about with his mates.
From when they were born I have been a huge advocate on reading and continue to do so now that they are older. I usually let them choose a few books at the start the holidays from the bookstore. I also pay a monthly fee for a Marvel Unlimited membership for Mr 15. He can choose from over twenty thousands Marvel comics to read and new comics are added fortnightly. At the bookstore, comics range from $20-30 each, so for $12.69 a month, it is a lot cheaper than buying comics.
There are plenty of community run holiday programs and activities. The boys go to youth group but there are a lot of other activities around. My boys aren’t interested in sport (we have tried many times over the years to get them involved in sport but it just doesn’t interest them and that is totally ok. We all have things we are and aren’t interested in) but there are cricket and tennis (for example) camps over the holidays. The boys went to a Lego activity group, Minecraft and Robotics classes in previous years and loved it.
Of course, you can watch movies, do some baking or cooking, go to the park or for a walk, be a tourist in your own city, go to the zoo/ beach/ bush, see an exhibition, go for a picnic…. there are so many things to do over the holidays. Later this week I will post ideas for keeping the kids occupied over the holidays.
How do you stop your kids from spending hours and hours on the gaming consoles? Do you think it is a problem?