Video Games

Gaming, A New Approach

Delaney Ruston, MD
November 11, 2019
Person playing video games

Teen boys are spending 9 hours on average each week playing video games. And of course, there are many girls who spend a lot of time on such games. The ones that are really hooked often are up late into the night playing and can spend 9 hours easily in one day. They do this for many reasons, including because it is fun, social, they get to level up, AND, the companies are doing a great job of hooking them.

You may have read recently that the Chinese government is so concerned about their youths' addiction that they have set a gaming curfew for young gamers. During weekdays, kids and teens in China will now be limited to about 90 minutes per day to play videos and cannot play video games after 10 p.m.  Reasons include concerns of addiction, violent content in the games, concerns of increasing myopia, and others.

While I am sure our country will not impose a video game curfew, it is interesting to think of our country's curfews. Every state except Vermont has a driving curfew for teen drivers. My film partner, Lisa, finds this driving curfew helps with parenting her new teen driver.

Many teens who play a lot of video games also have happy, full lives—being social offline, doing other things for the challenge that lets them build needed self-competence, family time, and much more. When kids and teens have lots going on off the screen, it is a great sign of mental wellbeing!

Yet, many hours on video games can be a red flag when there is very little happening outside of game time. Are they experiencing stressors offline for which gaming is an escape? Is there clinical anxiety or depression that is leading to avoidance and isolation, and then games become the perfect fill-in? It is crucial to sort this out when a youth fits this picture. And seek help from a school counselor, friends, or other resources.

Even if your child or students are not attached to video games, they likely have friends who are, and a personal short talk is a way to inspire productive conversations (which you know is the whole purpose with all of our TTTs). Watching this TEDx talk by Cam Adair, a self-described former video game addict, is a great way to open a conversation.

After nearly a decade of eating, sleeping, and gaming up to 16 hours a day, Cam quit gaming. In January of 2015, he started the website, GameQuitters. What began as a way to help him find his purpose and keep him away from the consoles, has turned into a community 30,000 strong. In his TEDx, he talks about how he had to abandon work to get proper sleep because he was playing games all night. He goes on to explain why people dive into the gaming world. It was a way to escape from real-world problems temporarily into imaginary ones; it's a way to socialize with avoiding hard social interactions; it's also a place to be challenged and gain competencies.

Last May, I asked him about why he thinks so many kids are playing Fortnite to excess:

“Anytime a game is this viral (40 million people played it in May alone), it creates challenges, especially for teenagers, because everyone is playing it. To not play Fortnite in high school right now is to be a social outcast. That's hard for a teenager. Other than the virality, the Battle Royale element in Fortnite can also be problematic because there is no way to pause in the middle of a game without losing. It's also very competitive, and we know competitive games tend to be more addictive.”

I also asked Adair what advice he would give parents around the game Fortnite?

“One simple tip is to understand the natural pauses in the game. Most games of Fortnite last 20-30 minutes, so if, for example, you ask your son or daughter to come for dinner and they are in the middle of a game, you will meet resistance because if they stop now, they will lose. When they play for prestige and to be the best amongst their peers, losing can hurt their social standing. Instead, try to plan ahead. If you see they are halfway through the game and dinner will be ready in 20 minutes, tell them not to start another one after it's done so they will be ready for dinner — and if they do, you will unplug the modem, and they will lose their game. When your kids know you understand how their games work and you will maintain your boundaries while also being compassionate and working with them, they are likely to respond better than if it's abrasive and a fight. Most importantly, parents need to get educated on video game addiction and recognize the warning signs.”

Here are some other ideas around helping you parent around gaming:

Validating Gaming is Fun

Validating that gaming is fun is important but also explaining the allure and why you have limits. There is an art to validating our teens' feelings effectively. Work to tell them you see and appreciate the challenge of what they are feeling, and try not to follow it with statements such as, "Oh, don't worry, it will get better."

Do Swaps

See if your child will commit to designing video games (maybe even learning to code online depending on the age) for some percentage of the time plays video games—even just try this for a weekend. It is all about throwing a few peanuts into a bag of popcorn now and then to see if little shifts can occur (or a new product for that matter—girl,  did I love Cracker Jacks growing up.)

Let Tech Do the Work

For example, with Apple’s Screen Time, you can set all phone games to go off at a certain time. Make sure your phone is truly linked to your child’s. Otherwise, they can just push the button that says, extend the time. Now that might be your system—i.e. you have a limit just as a reminder to them, but just make sure you know which way it is. I know several parents who did not realize this for some time.

Replacing the Time Spent

Much of what I, and many researchers and practitioners, are concerned about is the displacement of time. What are our kids not doing, not developing when they are spending most of their free time on screens?  

Parents Getting Support

I am a big believer in building a community around parenting to help our kids through difficult times and to support each other through difficult parenting moments. In Screenagers NEXT CHAPTER, I share how it was a team of friends, teachers, and others that helped Tessa get through a very stressful time dealing with depression.

"My House, My Rules."

My wonderful neighbor told me how she operates with her kids (ages 9, 12, 15).  "We just have a Wii at our house and have tried to stick with active video games. No guns, etc. Wii Sports, Just Dance, Mario Kart. No video games on phones for us. I tend to do 'my house, my rules' with other kids and allow for the same at friends' houses."

For this TTT, talk to your kids about gaming addiction:

  1. Have everyone talk about their favorite video game or all other consuming internet activities. What makes them so appealing?
  2. Do you ever play a game as a way to escape dealing with a feeling?
  3. How easy is it for you to set your own limits around using the internet and gaming and then stop when the time is up?
  4. How many hours do you think is the right amount of time in a day to spend on video games?

If you want to host a screening of the movie in your community, please fill out this form.

Take a look here to see if there’s a screening near you.

*We would love for you to share this TTT any way that works for you, whether that’s on social media or via a newsletter. If you want to send it out in your newsletter we just ask that you credit us and link to our website, and let us know at lisa@screenagersmovie.com.

Do you organize professional development in schools? We now have a 6-hour, 3-part training module. Request more information here Professional Development.

Stay in touch with the Screenagers community on Facebook, Twitter and leave comments below.

November 11, 2019


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Video Games

Gaming, A New Approach

Delaney Ruston, MD
November 11, 2019
Person playing video games

Teen boys are spending 9 hours on average each week playing video games. And of course, there are many girls who spend a lot of time on such games. The ones that are really hooked often are up late into the night playing and can spend 9 hours easily in one day. They do this for many reasons, including because it is fun, social, they get to level up, AND, the companies are doing a great job of hooking them.

You may have read recently that the Chinese government is so concerned about their youths' addiction that they have set a gaming curfew for young gamers. During weekdays, kids and teens in China will now be limited to about 90 minutes per day to play videos and cannot play video games after 10 p.m.  Reasons include concerns of addiction, violent content in the games, concerns of increasing myopia, and others.

While I am sure our country will not impose a video game curfew, it is interesting to think of our country's curfews. Every state except Vermont has a driving curfew for teen drivers. My film partner, Lisa, finds this driving curfew helps with parenting her new teen driver.

Many teens who play a lot of video games also have happy, full lives—being social offline, doing other things for the challenge that lets them build needed self-competence, family time, and much more. When kids and teens have lots going on off the screen, it is a great sign of mental wellbeing!

Yet, many hours on video games can be a red flag when there is very little happening outside of game time. Are they experiencing stressors offline for which gaming is an escape? Is there clinical anxiety or depression that is leading to avoidance and isolation, and then games become the perfect fill-in? It is crucial to sort this out when a youth fits this picture. And seek help from a school counselor, friends, or other resources.

Even if your child or students are not attached to video games, they likely have friends who are, and a personal short talk is a way to inspire productive conversations (which you know is the whole purpose with all of our TTTs). Watching this TEDx talk by Cam Adair, a self-described former video game addict, is a great way to open a conversation.

After nearly a decade of eating, sleeping, and gaming up to 16 hours a day, Cam quit gaming. In January of 2015, he started the website, GameQuitters. What began as a way to help him find his purpose and keep him away from the consoles, has turned into a community 30,000 strong. In his TEDx, he talks about how he had to abandon work to get proper sleep because he was playing games all night. He goes on to explain why people dive into the gaming world. It was a way to escape from real-world problems temporarily into imaginary ones; it's a way to socialize with avoiding hard social interactions; it's also a place to be challenged and gain competencies.

Last May, I asked him about why he thinks so many kids are playing Fortnite to excess:

“Anytime a game is this viral (40 million people played it in May alone), it creates challenges, especially for teenagers, because everyone is playing it. To not play Fortnite in high school right now is to be a social outcast. That's hard for a teenager. Other than the virality, the Battle Royale element in Fortnite can also be problematic because there is no way to pause in the middle of a game without losing. It's also very competitive, and we know competitive games tend to be more addictive.”

I also asked Adair what advice he would give parents around the game Fortnite?

“One simple tip is to understand the natural pauses in the game. Most games of Fortnite last 20-30 minutes, so if, for example, you ask your son or daughter to come for dinner and they are in the middle of a game, you will meet resistance because if they stop now, they will lose. When they play for prestige and to be the best amongst their peers, losing can hurt their social standing. Instead, try to plan ahead. If you see they are halfway through the game and dinner will be ready in 20 minutes, tell them not to start another one after it's done so they will be ready for dinner — and if they do, you will unplug the modem, and they will lose their game. When your kids know you understand how their games work and you will maintain your boundaries while also being compassionate and working with them, they are likely to respond better than if it's abrasive and a fight. Most importantly, parents need to get educated on video game addiction and recognize the warning signs.”

Here are some other ideas around helping you parent around gaming:

Validating Gaming is Fun

Validating that gaming is fun is important but also explaining the allure and why you have limits. There is an art to validating our teens' feelings effectively. Work to tell them you see and appreciate the challenge of what they are feeling, and try not to follow it with statements such as, "Oh, don't worry, it will get better."

Do Swaps

See if your child will commit to designing video games (maybe even learning to code online depending on the age) for some percentage of the time plays video games—even just try this for a weekend. It is all about throwing a few peanuts into a bag of popcorn now and then to see if little shifts can occur (or a new product for that matter—girl,  did I love Cracker Jacks growing up.)

Let Tech Do the Work

For example, with Apple’s Screen Time, you can set all phone games to go off at a certain time. Make sure your phone is truly linked to your child’s. Otherwise, they can just push the button that says, extend the time. Now that might be your system—i.e. you have a limit just as a reminder to them, but just make sure you know which way it is. I know several parents who did not realize this for some time.

Replacing the Time Spent

Much of what I, and many researchers and practitioners, are concerned about is the displacement of time. What are our kids not doing, not developing when they are spending most of their free time on screens?  

Parents Getting Support

I am a big believer in building a community around parenting to help our kids through difficult times and to support each other through difficult parenting moments. In Screenagers NEXT CHAPTER, I share how it was a team of friends, teachers, and others that helped Tessa get through a very stressful time dealing with depression.

"My House, My Rules."

My wonderful neighbor told me how she operates with her kids (ages 9, 12, 15).  "We just have a Wii at our house and have tried to stick with active video games. No guns, etc. Wii Sports, Just Dance, Mario Kart. No video games on phones for us. I tend to do 'my house, my rules' with other kids and allow for the same at friends' houses."

For this TTT, talk to your kids about gaming addiction:

  1. Have everyone talk about their favorite video game or all other consuming internet activities. What makes them so appealing?
  2. Do you ever play a game as a way to escape dealing with a feeling?
  3. How easy is it for you to set your own limits around using the internet and gaming and then stop when the time is up?
  4. How many hours do you think is the right amount of time in a day to spend on video games?

If you want to host a screening of the movie in your community, please fill out this form.

Take a look here to see if there’s a screening near you.

*We would love for you to share this TTT any way that works for you, whether that’s on social media or via a newsletter. If you want to send it out in your newsletter we just ask that you credit us and link to our website, and let us know at lisa@screenagersmovie.com.

Do you organize professional development in schools? We now have a 6-hour, 3-part training module. Request more information here Professional Development.

Stay in touch with the Screenagers community on Facebook, Twitter and leave comments below.

November 11, 2019


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