In my post Screens – Is your teen in control? I tried to find an answer to the question: what is extensive screen time? In the case of my sons screen time is narrowed down to gaming, or more specifically “social gaming”: they play with their friends online. To find the answers, I carried out an experiment involving my four sons (ages 6 to 15). I have received a pretty good answer from them as to how to approach this question. I will share it with you in my next post. But first, let’s see what you can find on the Internet about this topic.
Since mid-2018, a new concept, referred to as gaming disorder is included in the International Classification of Diseases. It is defined as a pattern of gaming behavior (“digital-gaming” or “video-gaming”) characterized by
- impaired control over gaming,
- increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and
- continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.
For gaming disorder to be diagnosed, the behaviour pattern must be of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning and would normally have been evident for at least 12 months.
So you can have your child screened if you have doubts. That being said, I searched the internet for gaming disorder screening services in Europe, and could not find an institute offering this service.
Most of us parents tend to think we can relax when reading the definition of gaming disorder because our teen has not gone that far and probably never will. On the other hand, we would want our teen to spend less time on gaming, and more time on “useful things” because we want them to do better in everything except for gaming. In addition, we want to interfere before it gets worse.
Parenting sites suggest various measures to reduce screen time, however, most of these sites focus on children. For teens, you need other technics. The few sites that do focus on teens, are more relevant for social media addicts. However, I found some of the recommendations for teens’ screen time by verywellfamily.com useful. I will certainly take over their idea to make screen time a privilege as opposed to a right. Especially with siblings, fighting for screen time, it can indeed become a sort of a right. Each of them argue for their right to play not less than his brother or sister. It is even more complicated with more than two siblings: the standard is always set by the one who has played the most on that day.
Organising family activities as an alternative for gaming is a good thing, and it certainly helps. But it has its limits. The kids still have plenty of time to play and parents have limited time for activities. Also, having several kids of different ages makes it difficult to find activities that are attractive for everyone.
Family meetings can also help to reduce screen time, but the kids need to be willing to cooperate. If you stick to democratic decision making, and you have two kids or more, they can even vote against you. If they are not ready to cut down on screen time, you will find yourself very quickly in the blaming role during the meetings and they will fight back or ignore you. My post Family meetings based on equality offers a solution to get rid of the blaming role. But without motivation, family meetings alone won’t help.
What does help is if you have one on one conversations with them to find their inner motivation to reduce gaming time. After that you can start teaching them how to act on the motivation. And then you can put them in control. Look for my next post if you would like your teen to spend less time on gaming.