How can I monitor my son’s gaming? 5 Top Tips

Tara Cunningham Teen Issues

Love it or hate it, computer games are part of our children's lives. Even active children will have some sort of console at home or game on their phone. In our house it was becoming quite the obsession and so here is how we changed the path.

Teenage boys are gamers. Being aware of how much time is spent gaming is the first step. If not monitored correctly it will get out of hand and more difficult to control.

 Here's how we got on top of the situation.

1. How long is too long?
2. Are they playing age appropriate games?
3. Are they talking to anyone online?
4. Is it stopping them doing exercise?
5. Introducing another activity

Our son is an avid gamer. From a young age he loved his Nintendo DS and then progressed to a Console. Without me realisng he suddenly was ONLY gaming. Here's what we introduced to break the cycle.

How long is too long?

It's difficult to be actively parenting all the time. We all have busy lives and sometimes it's easier to let them game so you can get some chores done.

A friend of mine, I remember, told me that her boys' DS's were the best childcare she ever had. Which to me is incredibly sad because in the blink of an eye they are off to college.

However, on another level I do understand where she's coming from and I suppose my parents looked on TV the same way we look at gaming. Is a couple of hours gaming really doing any harm and look at all this laundry that I have got through.

My son and daughter got DS's at the same time, for Christmas one year. My boy was about 8 at the time and he just loved it. My daughter was a little indifferent. She's a couple of years older. But it was great if we were going anywhere in the car for entertainment.

It was only when we were on holidays, driving through the Canadian Rockies that I realised my son actually couldn't be without his DS. My husband and I were shocked to see that he preferred to be looking at this tiny screen rather than seeing live bears and glaciers.

So we decided enough was enough. And I did some research to see just how long was too long.

Studying

Of course this didn't go down well with my son, as all he could think of was getting to the next level. But I had to be firm. I found that when I told him to turn off his DS he got quite cross but this was because he was addicted to gaming.

I followed through on a timescale each day and after an hour of so of being without his DS he was back to his old self. It was frightening to see how hostile he could be because I wouldn't allow him to game.

Are they playing age appropriate games?

This was another issue that came to light as my boy got older. The DS became less of a need but he now had an XBox.

I know what you're thinking... if he already had a gaming problem, why was an XBox introduced.

Well probably for the same reason we bought the DS's, they were popular at the time and no one wants to feel like their child is being left out. In hindsight it wasn't a great idea.

I was aware that lots of console games available were aimed at adults or older teenagers. Most involved guns/ violence or a level of crime.

We had a rule that his account was linked to my email address and if a new game was being purchased he had to clear it with myself or his dad. The age limit on the games is there for a reason.

I recently read that alot of gaming teenagers struggle with reality because they spend so much time online and don't realise that life doesn't have a restart button.

So we have to be strong as the parent and say no to games that are not suitable, even if their whole class is playing, which leads to the next question.

Are they talking to anyone online?

Lots of games now allow for multi player platforms online. So you can basically play with anyone. This to me was both a good and a bad thing.

How could it be good I hear you say? With so many predators out there. So the reason I think it's a bad idea is for exactly that reason. We need to know at all times that out children are safe online. You need to know at ALL times exactly WHO your child is talking to online. That is without question.

However, I could see that my son had been gaming alone and had become quite solitary. When he started gaming online with others that changed. I could hear him laughing and chatting with other gamers and that it had actually become quite social.

But the rules were that I had to know who he was online with. He played with his 3 cousins and 2 kids from school. He wasn't allowed to chat with anyone that I didn't know and if I found that he had been the consequence was that his console would be sold. Without question or any consideration.

We live in quite a rural area, with none of his school friends living nearby so I felt that because he was able to chat with them while playing he became more social and interactive the rest of the time.

Is it allowing exercise?

I know lots of games have been introduced to encourage kids to be more active. To get them dancing or doing a sport but nothing can replace the real deal. Out in the air, running around, mixing with other kids.

My boy didn't want to be playing football or soccer. He just didn't enjoy it, but we made a rule that if he was to keep his console then he had to get involved in some kind of outdoor activity.

Pick one and I would see if it was available locally.

So we tried a few different things. Running to start with. It went ok. He joined a cross country team and enjoyed it but after a couple of months the club closed and so I had to feverishly find something else. He tried tennis and was very good at it. It seemed the hand eye coordination from gaming actually made him a good tennis player.

And then 3 years ago we were travelling home one day and in fields near our house we saw a line of archery targets. Well I never saw him so interested in something. We read the sign, took the details and got in touch with the organisers.

Introducing another activity

The day we saw the archery targets is the day my boy found his true calling. It had such an appeal to him because of his gaming. His favourite games were target shooting games.

Archery is a sport of focus, precision, technicality and physicality. It certainly is for a particular type of person. I notice now at competitions that they all have similar interests or jobs.

We did however, also have to realise that an archery bow is a weapon. Correct use and handling had to be used at all times.

He signed up for the beginners course and absolutely loved it. He was also very good at it. So much so that he was asked to try out for the National Squad and was offered a place on the team within 6 months of holding his first bow.

He now holds three national records and has just returned from Europe where he competed in his first world event.

This sport has transformed my 6 year old boy. He trains everyday. He is so focussed that everything has improved, including his mood, physicality and even his grades.

He still plays his XBox but not nearly as much. Maybe he would have started to outgrow it anyway but possibly not.

I'm not suggesting that you all go out and join an archery club but there is a sport or activity for everyone.

Variety is key.

Keep trying and don't give up until they find something they love more than their console.

It changed our family life forever.

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Mum, Graphic designer, Website owner, Writer at Tweentotwenty | Website

Tara Cunningham is a Mum and Graphic Designer. My children's education has always been very important to me. I feel that if you are willing to put in the time they will appreciate the effort.
I hope that you find our thoughts and ideas useful and interesting.