Easy Test For Video Game Overuse

Is your child overusing his game? Here is one simple question to find out.
Melanie Hempe

Do you feel that your child may be playing his video or screen games too much? Should you set time limits for your child? Our culture nowadays is so accepting of childhood gaming for entertainment, babysitting, and down-time activities that it can be hard to determine if you have a potential overuse problem on your hands. Or, maybe it isn't really that hard.

After four years of working with families struggling with screen related issues, I have discovered one simple quick question that seems to help most parents immediately get perspective on their child’s gaming balance. This observation is based on mom science as well as the actual assessment survey for gaming addiction. While you won’t find it a medical textbook or proven in a fancy ‘science’ lab, my own experience has proven to be right-on most of the time and you only have to answer one question!

Here it is:

Can your child name three things they like as much or better than their video game?  

I mean three other things that he is as happy or happier with than his screen game. Mom and Dad, you know your child better than anyone and you know in your gut what the answer is.

If gaming is balanced, he should be able to equally be happy with other childhood activities. Since it is not healthy for a child to spend 75% of his free time on a screen, we find that if he can list three other things that he likes as much as his screen then he may be in balance. If it is not balanced,  then gaming will rise to the top of his favorite activity list above all others. It will become his default go-to activity when he is tired, bored, lonely or depressed, as well as when he is in a great mood and has some energy to burn.

A supporting question might be:  What does he reach for when he needs down time?  Will a good book satisfy? How about shooting hoops in the driveway? Will he draw, read, head out back to his fort, ride his bike or call friends over? Or does he always reach for a screen device?

Another question to consider is:  What do you immediately think of when you think of getting a gift for your child? Do you head to the game store for the latest video game or to the sporting good store for some new baseball equipment or a new basketball? What is on his Christmas list? Be honest.

Remember that his childhood activities will change his brain pathways, become his future hobbies and interests, and help direct his social, emotional, and academic path. If he is interested in games 25% of the time or less when he chooses an activity he is probably fine. If he chooses gaming 50-100% of the time, you may be headed for some conflict and future overuse problems.

So is the “video game use” test really that simple?

Well, from this mom's perspective, it really is.

For a more detailed list of addiction signs, click here. For more info and support on balancing screen use in childhood go to www.familiesmanagingmedia.com.