Mom! I can’t pause the game!

You want your teen to connect with friends and collaborate in meaningful activities that build communication and team dynamics, but do they have to it from different homes while YELLING AT THE TOP OF THEIR LUNGS!! Wasn’t that the point of wearing a headset so you didn’t need to? 

PEW! PEW! PEW! 

The constant nagging to get your teen to prioritize their time or energy into literally anything else feels like pushing a boulder uphill. When you ask for the simplest things with reasonable notice, you get snapped at or perhaps more annoying… 

“Mom! I can’t pause the game!” 

Your life doesn’t have a pause button either (but wouldn’t’ that be awesome?) and you’re fed up waiting for the game to end while dinner is getting cold. Asking your teen to give up gaming will bring the digital war into your house but now you regret ever buying it (or letting your teen buy it) and are worried they’re addicted. 

Your daily attempts to create reasonable limits are getting more heated, and your desire to rip the console from the wall, throw it on the road and drive over it a few times just hit all-time high. 

What about the impact on your teen’s brain? 

I poured over several studies and here’s my summary. Too much of any gaming can change the brain’s development and lead to addiction. 

However, strategy, creative, or learning based games with a non-violent premise (Minecraft, Rocket League, Super Mario, etc.) can improve: 

  • visuospatial skills and vision in low light 
  • fine motor skills and reactivity 
  • delayed memory and concentration 
  • team building and communication skills (strategy-based games) 
  • confidence and quick reasoning 

First-person shooter games like Call of Duty, Fortnite, Battlefield, etc., can reduce: 

  • Emotional regulation and empathy 
  • increased aggression and risk taking (no definitive studies on increased violent behaviour
  • neural reward system sensitivity (lack of interest in other activities) 
  • overall energy levels after extended periods in a fight or flight response 
  • Sensitivity to violence 

Find a balance. 

Collaborative/team gaming is the new ‘hanging out at the mall/park’ like when we were young and it’s not your teen’s fault they’re growing up in the digital era. Approaching limitations with greater perspective steers you away from shame, guilt, or condescension. 

Here’s the 4 reasons your teen can’t get enough. 

  • No negative consequence for failing – with all the pressure to succeed in school, sports, relationships, etc. gaming is one place your teen escapes being graded with a number or letter that defines their value. 
  • Unlimited tries – your teen hit’s the reset button and starts over without judgement of not having tried hard enough, failing a test, grade or anyone’s expectations. 
  • Repetition builds mastery – every time your teen starts over, they increase their skills quickly, leading to higher confidence much faster than other activities. 
  • Predictability – each game is a controlled environment with limited variables so there’s just enough adventure with a great deal of security and emotional safety compared to the real world. 

Create reasonable limits. 

  • Share your concerns and hear your teen’s side in a compassionate conversation(s). 
  • Set reasonable daily limits with clear days/times and opportunities to earn limited, extra time, checking back regularly to see if adjustments are needed. 
  • Use Wi-Fi controls from your service provider to keep agreed upon boundaries instead of nagging or reminding, encouraging your teen to take ownership where possible. 
  • Roll up your sleeves and get in the game to connect with your teen, even if you’re awful and hate it. 

If your teen’s gaming is beginning to strain or disconnect your relationship and you’d like help creating respectful limits without the screaming match, join me today at 3pmPT/6pmET for a LIVE Q&A in my private parenting community on Facebook. Click below and get your first month FREE! 

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