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Wednesday, 10 Oct 2018

How much time should your children play video games?

By Private Therapy Clinic

Tamara Licht Musso discusses children who use social media and video games. How much is too much and how do you talk do your children about their excessive use of devices. It can be difficulty to know how to get your child to spend less time using electronic devices, in this video child Psychologist Tamara gives parents advice on how to tackle this common issue. Tamara is also part of our child therapy service which we operate here at Private Therapy Clinic.

Video Transcript

Hi. My name is Tamara Licht. I work at a Private Therapy Clinic. I’m a clinical psychologist who specialises with working with parents and children and families.

We get a lot of parents who come to the clinic nowadays, wondering how much social media is acceptable, how much time of screen is acceptable. “My child spends a lot of time playing video games. Is there something wrong?” Overall, there’s nothing wrong in having a balanced view when it comes to social media. It’s a reality and if we try also to stop our children from engaging with social media and video games, what we incur the risk of actually doing is stopping them engaging in a social aspect of their life. We understand that socialisation nowadays for young people involves interacting through social media or even nowadays actually playing a video game. It’s them on one side playing with a friend who is on the other side of the video game, and that’s the way that they interact. What we have to be mindful about “Is my child using social media?” or “Is my child using video games as a way of distracting themselves after a long day as a way of cooling down, as a way of relaxing, as a way of reconnecting with their peers?” or “Is my child using this as a way of avoiding something that’s creating a lot of emotional distress?”

Nowadays, there is a very thin line between distraction and avoidance. And as parents getting to know our children and getting to know when they reach out to something, what is their intention? What is their purpose? Is he reaching out to a video game because he’s really eager and keen to play with a friend or is he reaching out to a video game because he had a very long day of school he’s worried about all the homework that he has to do? And then we don’t really understand if at the end of the day, the child is worried or if his intention was to play with friends.

If we’re noticing that our child, at the end of the day, tends to be more irritable or more anxious or they’re not really sleeping well, chances are your child is probably using video games or social media as a way of avoiding a situation that it’s making them feel a little bit uncomfortable. So now that we know that our child is using social media or video games as a way of avoiding something that’s creating emotional distress, we might wonder “How do I approach them? What’s the best-case scenario? Do I remove all social media from their hands? Do I keep their phone? Do I stop any contact from reaching out to other friends? What do I do to really try to understand what’s troubling them?”

Simple strategy is like approaching them at a moment where you see that they are actually accessible to you, and by no means try to interrupt a video game because you can get into a huge discussion with your child. Maybe try to approach them at a time where you feel that they are able to connect with you and try to understand. “I see that you’ve been playing or I see that you’ve been using your phone for X amount of time. What do you get out of this? What do you feel when you interact by using this? How do you think this fits into your day-to-day routine? What are the short, medium and long term consequences of using the video game or of using social media?”

What we want to try to do is to help them come up with an answer, to help them to try to realise that what they’re doing might not necessarily be the best way to deal with the conflict that they’re having at this point in time.

So for children initially, using the video game or using social media to avoid facing something that makes them feel anxious for example or distress seems like a really good idea. And chances are on the short term, it’s an excellent idea. “Let me sit down and play. Let me disconnect from what’s happening and that’s it.” But what we do know is that long term, avoiding situations that are making your child feel uncomfortable has the risk of setting them off for anxiety or for low mood so what we want to try to do is to help them come up with creative ideas, help them try to see that what they think is  a really good idea and the short term might not necessarily be a good idea on the long term in order to work out what they need to work out at an emotional level.

Now that we understand a little bit more about the difference between avoidance and distraction, it might be a good opportunity to reflect. When do we see our children doing this? Do we know if they’re actually doing it to avoid something or to just ease down after a whole hectic day of school for example?


For help with the issues discussed in this article speak to one of our therapists here at Private Therapy Clinic for a free initial chat or to make an appointment.

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