Last evening I attended a fascinating and free lecture hosted by Alberta Health Service's community education program. These are weekly session held at a variety of locations around the city, and did I mention they are free? AHS is just one of many organisations that offer similar services to families- a true benefit to living in Calgary and another positive attribute that helps me feel connected to my new city.
The topic last night was Game Over: The Case for Videogame Abuse. Hosted by a clinical supervisor working in addiction services serving adolescents, it was an eye opening session. I was naive about some of the games that could be available to my child and the lack of regulation in the industry. I had no idea that the video game industry surpassed both the film and music industries from a worldwide revenue perspective.
Although some experts feel the research on video games and their addictive tendencies is not conclusive yet, there are many red flags for parents. We are talking about developing minds being exposed to this material- and it is not simply the killing games we need to fear. It is the game design of even some seemingly- benign games. They are designed to keep kids playing and the stimulation of the brain leaves an effect similar to ADD afterwards. The presenter suggested stopping all electronics 30 minutes to 90 minutes before bed. As a mom whose son is always trying to get his maximum game time in, I heard that and thought electronics before school will have to stop in our house as well.
Studies show that for children with strong social skills, playing video games, using social networking and other technology make these adolescents more social. However, if your child has weak social skills, these activities result in poorer social skills years later.
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) suggests:
- for adolescents under age 18, limit video game playing to 1-2 hours per day
- watch for signs that gaming is interfering with socialising, sleep, academics or family time
- allow play only after homework complete
- encourage participation in other activities
- consult a qualified mental health care professional if you have concerns