Screens and gaming can be both a blessing and a curse for parents; they offer kids the chance to be absorbed in an activity, but for parents this benefit can be marred by a feeling of guilt. Shouldn’t kids be outside playing rather than on screens? Some of the time, yes. However, it’s important to also recognise the benefits of screen time for children, and know how to approach asking them to turn off their games in order to avoid a blow-up.
Our resident counselling expert Debbie shared the following advice:
How is screen time beneficial for children?
Time spent whiling away hours gaming shouldn’t be seen by parents as a waste of time. For many kids, it offers the chance to take a break and regulate their feelings. In the same way that an adult might watch a tv show or read the internet for a while, kids can switch off and relax with a game.
For sensitive kids or those with SEND (special educational needs and disabilities), the world can be an overwhelming, challenging place. Having a break and enjoying some screen time gives them a chance to decompress.
Gaming also offers children the opportunity to learn, create and socialise without the need for face to face contact. Kids can also explore different worlds and roles and expand their imaginations.
When screen time becomes problematic
However, it’s important for kids to not be too reliant on imaginary worlds and characters rather than real life. Therefore, it’s important to set boundaries to create a balance. Here are some tips for managing screen time boundaries:
Give warnings about upcoming transitions
if you’re serving up dinner and your son is mid-Fortnite battle, how can you end his gaming session without a battle of your own?
A helpful way to ease the situation is to warn kids 10 minutes ahead of time that their game needs to come to an end. Some kids find a sudden end to their hard-fought gaming session distressing, so giving a forewarning can help.
Be a little flexible
If the game has run a couple of minutes over, try and give them a tiny bit of leeway, as long as they really are trying to finish their go. Less stress makes for a happier home for everybody.
Ask how much longer they need
If you’re looking to head out and your child is busy building a house on Minecraft, try asking them how much time they’ll need to be ready. This offers them the chance to find a solution to ending their gaming with you, rather than at odds with you.
Find out about their games
It can be nice for children to feel that their parents are interested in their gaming life. Ask them to tell you about what they’ve been doing, the character they’ve been playing with, etc. You could even play with them for a while, and ask them to show you how.
Look out for warning signs that they need a break
While screen time can be fun, it can also prove infuriating. If your child seems agitated, angry or irritable it may be because they need to take a break from gaming, or reduce their usage.
Make sleep the priority
Gaming can be highly stimulating and it’s important to wind down before sleep. It’s also important not to let gaming sessions run on too late. Make sure all screens are off for an hour before bed, and encourage them to have some quiet time before sleep- maybe by reading a book or spending time with the family.