From the Professionals at Tri-County Addictions Services
Video games can be a fun and exciting way to help us get through the winter. Playing with friends, either in person or on-line, can be a great way to get together and have fun when it’s too cold to get outside. Mastering new challenging levels and scenarios can help alleviate some of the boredom of these long winter nights and occupying the world of the game we are playing can offer us an escape from the winter blues or other difficulties we may be facing (i.e. relationships.). When our use of video games is in balance with other areas of our life, it can be a positive thing.
On-line games offer particular challenges to managing our use of technology. We can play them anytime night or day and anywhere with internet access. Instead of getting to the next level, play continues in an endless fashion, which can make it difficult to set limits. Belonging to an on-line community can involve some of the same challenges as belonging to an “off-line” one, with users trying to keep up with each other in terms of skill level and accomplishments.
Like with other areas of our life, however, video game use can sometimes cause problems. We might be sleep-deprived from spending too many late nights trying to get to the next level. We may forget to do our homework in our rush to get back to the other worlds games offer and we might stop spending as much time doing other activities we enjoy or seeing friends outside of our virtual realms.
Below are some tips for parents from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) to help children and youth navigate the world of technology:
- Consider how you use technology and new media. Are you glued to your cellphone? Do you head straight for the computer when you get home from work?
- Communicate with your children about their technology and media use. Discuss the possible impacts and dangers and talk to them about safer use.
- Set family rules around technology use. For example, “no texting” during family events or set regular “screen-free” times for the whole family.
- Be aware of your children’s Internet activities and what and where they have access. Can your child’s cellphone, I-pod or other device access the internet? Are they playing video games at a friend’s house?
- Spend time learning about the Internet and video games that are popular with youth. Have your child teach you about them or spend time participating in these activities with your children. This can increase your connection and engagement with one another, while serving as a springboard for discussions about the games and the concepts of balance and health.
- Keep the computer, video game consoles and other media in a common area of your home where you can monitor what they are doing.
- Help your children lead balanced lives. Set limits around your children’s use of technology. Encourage them to participate in other activities.
- Help your children set priorities. For example, doing homework comes before spending time texting or playing video games or completing chores before they are given the Wi-Fi password for the day.
- Set budgets for technology use (e.g., new games, internet packages, texting plans, etc.). Have your children share responsibility for the costs in some way.
- If your children are not using technology in ways that you approve of, you have the authority to cut off access or control their use in other ways (e.g. using a password to set the administrative rights on your home computer).
For more information, you can check out the following resources:
Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB): www.esrb.org/index-js.jsp
The ESRB assigns the age and content ratings displayed on all computer and video games, enforces advertising and marketing guidelines, and helps companies implement responsible online privacy practices. The section for parents provides resources, information and insight about the games kids are asking for. The information in this section is provided to help parents make informed decisions about their family’s video game experience.
Media Smarts: Canada’s Centre for Digital and Media Literacy: www.mediasmarts.ca
A comprehensive collection of media literacy and digital literacy resources is found on this website. The parent resource sections provide information on how to talk to kids about media, gain control of the home entertainment playground, and speak out as a consumer.