By Sandy Hooda
When our son expressed an interest in video games it really freaked me out. Peer pressure and curiosity were probably driving him. As was possibly dopamine, a chemical that is released during game time and a cause for addiction. I was aware about the video games de-addiction camps in China, and how gaming addiction was spreading around the world. I was anxious. I was in uncharted territory.
My wife, who is a little bit stricter than I am, appeared relaxed, if not encouraging, about the presence of video games in our son’s life. We both had somewhat different approaches to deal with this new member of our family, called the XBox!
Don’t deny them
My wife’s approach was to not deny our son. She felt it’s the new age and that debate was not about allowing or not allowing game time. In fact she felt that if we deny our son he would get even more curious thereby increasing his desire to play video games more often, to play elsewhere, or to even get addicted. She felt that his desire for game time would ultimately wear off. She also, rightly, felt that denial could lead to other short term issues and leave our son frustrated.
The middle path, and the ‘push and pull’
My wife felt that taking the middle path of allowing him to play for a certain number of hours a week would probably be the best one. To her, regulation was not about ‘no use’, instead, it was about ‘appropriate use’. She set clear limits based on a negotiated agreement with our son. Of course there was an element of ‘push’ and pull’ – sometimes he would go beyond and would need to be reminded. Sometimes he would concede, at times my wife would concede. I have to confess that observing this strategy, I realised that video game regulation could actually be a wonderful opportunity to develop self awareness and self control in a child.
Introduce them to other activities
Children love the outdoors, they especially love doing anything social. If their parents take them for hikes, museums, theatre, vacations, and that too, with other families, kids generally prefer ‘social’ outdoor activities to playing video games. I have always taken my children out as much as possible. Ever since they were young, we developed several interests that were outside our home, in places where there was no access to games, and even if there was, the children always preferred group outdoor activities.
Sports can be more fun than video games
My son loves sports, he loves football the most, but loves almost every sport under the sun. Since he was young we played a lot of sports together. And we watched sports – both inside home and we went for real games at stadiums. He really enjoyed playing video games but preferred outdoor sports. Sports provided us with numerous opportunities to talk to each other, to discuss strategies deployed by the best players, to talk about their mental and physical toughness, discuss athletes dedication to health and nutrition, their work ethic, etc.
Play board games with them
We enjoyed playing many fun and challenging board games with our children. I don’t think there was a time where a board game ever substituted a video game time but what it probably did was to not make our children entirely dependent on video games. We played chess, scrabble, cluedo, ludo, card games and catan. We also equally enjoyed playing exciting educational video games.
Schools in Gurgaon have their own views and strategies on advising on how to deal with game time. The top Gurgaon schools will have sessions on cyber bullying and on overall cyber safety. Children of all ages find video games alluring, game manufacturers have cleverly produced games for all ages, some starting even at the pre nursery, nursery school and kindergarten. The games designed for children in primary school, middle school and senior school are probably more addictive. Even adults can find themselves getting hooked on video games.
Parents sometimes feel frustrated, even helpless, especially during vacation time but it is important to know that a healthy child that has good role models, good home environment, access to outdoor activities and a rich (outdoors and sports loving) community will invariably get drawn away from video games. Some game time can also provide healthy (and needed) down time for both parents and children.
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