Opinion: How do I get my kids to play less videogames?

This is the first thing people ask me when I tell them I review games. Parents who don’t play videogames themselves sometimes think that games are (inherently) a problem, as a form of entertainment/art.

If a child is unhealthily fixated on anything (celebrities, dieting, social media, videogames), it may be appropriate to take action or seek help. Some genres of videogame rely on structures, often involving reward or repetition, which can make for a compelling experience, but it’s not super helpful to jump to a worst-case scenario (like addiction) without looking at a bigger picture, first.

If I’m worried about my kids, I go back to basics; the stuff I already keep tabs on as a parent/caregiver.

Are they doing OK at school and getting homework done?

Do they have an OK social life outside of games?

Are they getting regular exercise?

Are they generally content with life?

Do they do things besides playing games for fun, too?

Is something else about the way they play that is causing concern?

Is the problem games, or does it stem from another issue?

If the child gets a ‘no’ to some of the questions, limiting games may help or it may not. Extra time to do homework is great, but they have to actually sit down and do it during their extra time.

I love videogames, but they’re just a part of life you can (generally) take or leave. I do find the question, “How do I stop my kids playing games?” quite baffling. I’ve played them all my life and have no particular fear of them, but if I thought they were creating problems for my kids, I would address it.

If you’re concerned about your young person’s mental health, here is an interview with Take This.

Some historical videogaming trivia: When I was a kid, my dad played games with me most mornings before work/school. I don’t remember people worrying about games too much in the 80s and 90s. Kids would come to our house because we had a computer. It was like having a pool, in terms of social currency. If you told teachers you played games, they pegged you as “the smart kid”.