Video games can be entertaining (though addictive) but kids who choose to play video games over other healthy activities do so because they actually satisfy several needs. The following are a few examples of why many children, pre-teens and teens cannot put the controller down:
- Boredom (no one to play with, limited other options)
- Addiction (lots of gaming leads to dopamine rush, leads to addiction)
- It’s easy to access (video games are always out and available)
- It’s fulfilling (shoot things, collect points, win, gain status, repeat)
- Social reasons (such as being bullied, being an introvert)
Get Dr. Carroll’s Top 10 Book Recommendations for Bullying and Social Isolation here
But what if we could satisfy these needs with something as healthy and wholesome as books? What if instead of choosing video games, your child chose books instead? It IS possible, read on!
While breaking an addiction to video games can be extremely difficult, ensuring that your child never gets addicted can be a whole lot easier in comparison – and worth the effort when you hear the stories of parents who have been down that road.
I have collected the following ideas from parents just like you who have firmly decided that books are better than video games for their children’s brains. Try a few tips or try them all! I am sure you’ll find something here that will help cut back on your child’s screen time.
9 Effective Ways to Cut Back on Your Child's Screen Time:
- Create “no screen zones” at home. There should be a few places in the home that screens should not be allowed. Good suggestions to start are bedrooms and at meal time. Blue light from smartphones and computers makes it hard to sleep anyway, and meal time should be for connecting with family members - so power off!
- Make your car a “no screen zone”. One mom from the UK described how when they are driving, no digital devices are allowed. Instead, on longer trips kids reach for books, magazines, dolls (plush puppets are fun) and small handheld games (think Rubik’s Cube). These items are stored in a basket in the back seat and are rotated every month to keep it interesting. They stay in the car so they don’t get lost.
- Pick a time each evening that all screens are turned off. Depending on the age of your child, maybe it’s 7 pm, or 8 pm, or maybe a different time works for you. Whatever time you choose, be sure you are consistent and you do it too. If you decide to check email on your phone after that time, you’ll lose credibility with your child.
- Set up a book nook in the home that is so dang cozy and attractive that it becomes your child’s favorite go-to place. Make it a “no-screen” zone and instead, stock it with his favorite items, art work he has created, and tons of books and fun reading material. Give him an option to read instead of play video games and he may just choose it.
- Put the video games away. Let’s face it, the easier they are to access, the more likely your child is to play them. If the video game console is hard to get out and set up, then it is probable your child will choose something else to do instead.
- Video games can feel sociable, because kids can play with other people in the house or outside it, however they actually promote social isolation. While books are typically read independently, they can encourage social activity if you take turns reading aloud to each other, listen to audio books together in the car or both parent and child read the same book and then discuss after each chapter (great for pre-teens with chapter books). Replace the isolating video games with family book discussions.
- Video games seem fulfilling in the moment but leave a hollow feeling long-term. A real sense of accomplishment instead can come from finishing a truly engaging, humorous or memorable book that shapes your child’s thinking. Find these kinds of books with help from your local librarian and create a deeper sense of well-being in your child far beyond what video games can offer.
- Minecraft and Grand Theft Auto are not babysitters, though they are often used to keep kids occupied. There are much better ways to engage children in stimulating activity that keeps them busy while you are cooking dinner or finally having a moment of peace. Art projects, craft activities and outdoor sports are all healthier activities that feed the brain and keep kids productively busy. Reading fun books such as graphic novels and choose your own adventures can be exciting ways to engage children with words when mom or dad needs a break.
- If a child is being bullied or having a hard time making friends, video games are often an easy way to cover up the shame, frustration and humiliation that comes from these experiences. There are dozens of books for every age group, reading level and gender to help address these issues instead and your child just needs someone to help guide her towards the titles. Librarians and book store clerks can be an amazing resource to find books where the main character is struggling with something similar to your child. Reading a story that your child can relate to can be a very important step in handling the feelings and the problem in a way that video games will never solve.
Get Dr. Carroll’s Top 10 Book Recommendations to Help with Bullying and Social Isolation – these books are relatable stories that your child will enjoy as he discovers that he is not alone and there are healthy ways to handle being bullied.
Although you may not believe it, your child may not want to be playing video games all the time. Video gamer children and teens often privately admit they wish they could stop, and that they had other productive outlets that satisfied the needs mentioned above. If you child is gaming for a few hours a day, Try a few of the tips suggested above and don’t take “no” for an answer. In the long run, you’ll be glad you stayed on it!