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Learning About Healthy Gaming Habits in Children and Teens

How can you help your child or teen develop healthy gaming habits?

Does your child spend a lot of time gaming on a gaming system, computer, or phone? How much time is too much?

Here are some tips to help balance gaming time with other activities.

  • Embrace the positive aspects.

    Games can give kids a sense of accomplishment, help them manage stress, and provide a way for them to make friends. Some kids even learn about other cultures and languages.
    Encourage your child to play games that help them learn, develop problem-solving skills, and work with others.

  • Get involved in the games.

    Have your children show you the games they're playing. Be a part of the experience—even play a game. Sure, it can be hard to pull yourself away from what you're doing. But supporting your child's interests can mean a lot, and it can be fun for you too.

  • Get to know the players.

    Learn who your kids are playing with, just like you do when your kids have friends over. When kids are playing online, keep in mind that it can be easier for some kids to make friends in an online game.
    Talk to your child about the risks of playing online games, such as cyberbullying, someone stealing their personal information, and meeting someone who may act in other harmful ways. Teach your child how to keep their information private. Know who your child plays with online and how they interact with others.

  • Encourage other kinds of games.

    Make one night a week family game night. Have your children take turns choosing the game. Borrow or swap games from neighbours. Or choose games that don't cost much, like a card game or charades.
    Online games include some that are violent, sexual, or have other types of adult content. Online games also may have some form of gambling. They may use virtual coins or tokens, real money, or ask for other things of value to earn or lose money. This is why it’s important to know what types of games your kids play online so they don’t put themselves at risk or develop a problem.

  • Get moving.

    Our bodies need movement, so set a daily limit on games that just use the mind. Then switch over to a game that gets you dancing or playing a sport. Or download an app that's designed for outdoor fun and lets you go on a treasure hunt or create videos.

  • Play in the company of others.

    We're all more likely to do something for too long if we're alone. Encourage your kids to play with others. Have your children game in an open space where it's easier to keep track of time. And set an alarm or a warning bell, so they know when it's time to go play outside, do an art project, or help prepare a meal.

  • Set limits and goals together.

    Your kids are more likely to play by the rules and achieve goals if they helped create them. Make a plan together that says where, when, and how long it's okay to game. For example, you might make it off-limits to game when eating or when doing homework. Post the plan where everyone can see. The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP) has recommendations at https://csepguidelines.ca for screen time limits for different ages.

  • Stick to the limits.

    You may be tempted to reward good behaviour with extra game time. But it's best to set your limits and stand firm. Limits can seem "mean" to kids. But in the end, your children may respect you for setting them.

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