According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, if you have children over the age of six, it’s important to encourage good screen time habits and to teach your kids the importance of using TV and video games in a healthy manner. Below are four ideas for helping your kids safely enjoy their favourite video games.
1. Have an Honest Discussion About Violence in Games
At the elementary school age, it’s easy to monitor your child’s gaming and only purchase games you have researched beforehand. When teens buy their own games and frequently use the internet to play with friends, this monitoring may seem more like an intrusion of privacy on both sides.
Speak with your older child or teenager about violence in games and help him or her to understand the importance of avoiding the overly negative themes, sexual violence, and criminal behaviour that many games promote. Explain to your child that what they watch and play can affect their mental health and that it’s important to choose quality media in the same way that it is crucial to eat healthy food.
2. Use Parental Controls to Monitor Screen Time
Unlike previous generations whose parents had no experience with video games, many Millennial and younger Generation X parents grew up gaming. Parents of these generations understand how tempting it is — and how easy it can be — to neglect schoolwork and socialization in lieu of a favourite game. If your child is old enough to play video games without supervision, you can still use parental controls on your child’s gaming platform to ensure that homework is done first and that dubious videos and other media do not reach your child’s iOS or Android device.
3. Stress Healthy Habits While Gaming
Staring at a screen for a long time in the wrong physical position and without breaks may cause back or neck pain, eyestrain, and fatigue. Your child may suffer from computer vision syndrome after long screen time sessions, and he or she may have trouble sleeping after playing a game too close to bedtime. Make sure your child is using high-quality tech when gaming, such as an ergonomic chair and computer and a pair of headphones that fit your budget. Look for a pair that surrounds the ear instead of earbuds to ensure comfort and a safe volume.
Stress the importance of limiting gaming sessions to a reasonable amount of time, taking frequent breaks to stretch and drink water, and employing habits like putting homework and other responsibilities before gaming. If you have a disability that affects your own physical activity, the Child-Friendly Housing Coalition of Alberta emphasizes that you can still participate in your child’s health by helping him or her exercise or play outdoors.
4. Pay Attention to Your Own Habits
Look at your own habits and focus on modelling the correct screen-related behaviour for your child. Parents who play video games can have a more active role in talking about appropriate games and gaming behaviour with their children, and those who don’t may still model healthy screen habits for the youngest members of their family.
Screen time can have several benefits for children and adults. Teach your children healthy habits when they are young and help them form a productive, fun relationship with their gaming platforms throughout their lives.
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