If you are a parent in 2018, chances are your child has played Fortnite, has a PlayStation Plus account, or has downloaded apps online to play on their tablet and/or mobile device. Although allowing your child to play video-games may seem like a simple way to keep them occupied, have you ever wondered about the risks that may arise from spending too much time playing video games?
Video games have become one of today’s biggest hobbies, not only for children, but also for adults; however, it may not be the healthiest hobby to practice. For example, many of the games children play that involve war and battles can cause the brain to overstimulate, preparing your child for a false threat (battle) in reality outside of the game.
Video games can also activate the brain’s nervous system known as the “fight or flight” response causing the heart rate and blood pressure to rise, which in turn leads to other parts of the brain shutting down. This isn’t good for their mental or physical health.
What happens is that the brain releases two chemicals known as Dopamine (the “feel good” chemical) and adrenaline (a rush sensation) to keep focus and elevate one’s mood. The child and their brain are now working at a much higher capacity with all that energy focused on the video game and not on the outside world.
As a result, when it comes time to turn off the game, the brain continues to function at a higher capacity than necessary, but now the child’s focus and energy have become disorganized. This can lead to behavior outbursts like throwing things, yelling, and increased frustration. This increase in brain chemicals increases the child’s activity and as a result, the brain needs some time to self-regulate (or “go back to normal”).
Your child’s behavior is not the only thing that may be compromised when playing video games. There are some additional risks to consider:
- Social Risks:
- Other gamers can inappropriately contact children by pretending to be another child, setting up meetings, or tricking them into revealing personal information.
- Other gamers can capture your child’s personal information (email, address, stored passwords, etc.)
- Insecure or Compromised Gamers software:
- Viruses may appear
- Gamer’s software can break or crush technology protection.
Help Your Child Have a Healthy Relationship with Gaming
This doesn’t necessarily mean that your child shouldn’t play video games, but there are ways that you as a parent can help your child have a healthy relationship with gaming:
- Set limits and keep video-games consoles and/or computers out of your child’s bedroom.
- Create a visual schedule of allowable game time. It is encouraged to give timely warnings during play time; for example, “You have 15 more minutes until game time is over.”
- Give appropriate consequences and provide rewards when they follow them, if you are a parent experiencing difficulty with your child and video games.
- Consider video-game ratings before letting your children engage in video games, as some games are inappropriate for children and can increase problematic behavior.
- Utilize parental control features that allow you to control and limit what your children may be exposed to by putting passwords on their accounts.
- Talk to your children about ways to protect your technology and private information by:
- Being cautious about opening files attached to email messages or instant messages
- Creating and using strong passwords
- Using antivirus and antispyware programs
- *And as a parent, keep the administrator password private and supervise the online game time of your children.
- If you are a parent that plays games as well, it is important to model appropriate behavior when playing.
Consistency is key! Try to remain consistent to allow your child to increase appropriate behavior during game play time. Do not limit yourself, you can also assist your child to develop other positive coping skills.
Looking for ways to have fun as a family that don’t involve video games? Look no further! Here are some fun places to visit that are low cost and even FREE on select days!
Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach (MOLAA)
Free admission every Sunday, the fourth Thursday of every month between 5:00–9:00 p.m. Admission is free everyday for children under 12 years.
628 Alamitos Ave,
- The California Science Center
The museum is always free! (Excludes IMAX and special exhibits)
Exposition Park (near USC)
700 Exposition Park Dr.
- Travel Town
For every mini engineer! An outdoor transportation museum for trains. You can go for a ride on a mini train that circles the park for just $2.75.
5200 Zoo Dr.
- Cabrillo Marine Aquarium
The museum is free, but they request donations if you can afford it.
3720 Stephen M. White Dr.
Free general admission every second Tues. of the month, on select holidays and after 3 p.m. Mon.-Fri. for LA County residents. Be sure to sign up for a free youth membership with Arts for NextGen. LACMA allows kids aged 17 and under to visit the museum for free anytime and bring one adult guest.
5900 Wilshire Blvd.
- La Brea Tar Pits
Free admission the first Tuesday of the month.
5801 Wilshire Blvd.
- Museums with Free Days
- Skirball Cultural Center (every Thursday)
2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd.
- Kidspace Children’s Museum (first Tuesday of the month 4pm-8pm)
480 N. Arroyo Blvd.
- Natural History Museum (the first Tues. of every month – except July and Aug)
900 Exposition Blvd.
- The Autry Museum of the American West (the second Tues. of every month from 10 a.m.-4 p.m)
4700 Western Heritage Way
- Tide Pools There are tide pools in and around LA that are free for example, the Terranea Sea Cave. Before you go, check the tide charts to maximize exploration in the cave and out.
The following therapists from our Compton Clinic contributed to this article:
Miriam Baltazar, ASW
Jessica Diaz, ASW
Roxanna Estrada, AMFT
Yesenia Flores, ASW
Jovantae Holloway, ASW
Theodore Lopez, ASW
Vanessa Sanchez, AMFT
Sebrena Thurton, AMFT