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Preventing gaming disorders

Health and Wellness, News

As winter approaches and daylight recedes earlier and earlier, it’s easy to find comfort in strictly indoor activities, particularly if you’re a parent. Once the kids are home from school cooped up inside, the path of least resistance often includes screen time or video games.

But did you know that gaming, whether on tablets, phones, computers or televisions, can become a serious addiction? Gaming can easily become an obsessive or compulsive behavior, especially in children and young adults whose brains are still developing.

Whether the game has harmless themes or not, the act of gaming itself can lead to the following:

  • outbursts
  • poor posture
  • aggressive behavior
  • feelings of loneliness
  • disinterest in healthy habits, such as relationships, communication, creativity and the outdoors

This winter, don’t allow gaming to become the default activity. By employing a few basic tactics, set parameters for healthy gaming practices, rather than allowing a disorder to take shape.

5 strategies to prevent gaming disorders:

  1. Set time limits. Whether you or your children struggle with game indulgence, set clear and defined limits on how often video games will be played. Make the decision and stick to it… no matter how much begging occurs afterward. Designate at least one day a week where no one in the house has gaming privileges or screen time. Instead, use this day to connect with one another.
  2. Develop new hobbies. Much of gaming’s appeal is that it provides an escape from the stressors or even monotony of everyday life. As much as we believe life should be enjoyed, we know it’s necessary to partake in healthy activities that allow relaxation. Instead of gaming, encourage reading, drawing or even writing. Regardless of what you choose, make sure relaxation doesn’t equate slouchy posture!
  3. Go outside. Go for a walk or a run; take the kids on a bike ride. Whatever the activity, being outdoors is proven to improve mental health. Encourage playtime outdoors for a portion of each day.
  4. Eliminate it. Sometimes setting limits isn’t enough. If a gaming addiction has already developed, it may be necessary to remove the gaming system or screen time completely, until healthier habits are put into place.
  5. Talk about it. If you’re the one struggling with a gaming disorder, talk to a therapist or someone you trust. If it’s one of your children, explain to them (with love) why it’s unhealthy to spend too much time playing video games and how it can lead to deeper issues. Tell your child that though gaming is fun, so are lots of other activities that they may miss if life is spent looking at a screen.

Like many things, gaming is okay in moderation. Decide what you’re comfortable with and what’s healthy for you as a family — and then stick to it! Remember, communication and alternate activities are key.