Are you aware of how your kids are doing socially? I am not talking about how many friends they have or how popular they are at school. Do they get along with other people, can they hold their own in a group, do they have a social group that they fit into?
It is tough to be a teenager these days. Kids feel a need to fit in to the crowd, any crowd. Life seems easier if you can find a group of friends that share your interests and your passions. However, it seems that more and more kids are withdrawing into a make believe world of gaming. They are drawn by the fast cars, world domination, and shoot your enemy games that are so popular these days. Unfortunately, these games become real to many kids. They live to play in their make believe world and as a result their everyday ‘real’ lives suffer.
How can parents know if their kids are spending too much time in the make believe world of gaming? Does your child spend most of his free time either playing games or learning how to master the next level? After school, do they head straight to their room to play? When friends come over do they spend their time playing video games? Or more importantly, do friends come over?
While playing video games can be a fun outlet for many teens, spending too much time playing can create a social dilemma. In the gaming world if you fail, you can start over. If you die, you will come back to life. If you cause damage or hurt someone, there are no consequences. In fact, in many games causing havoc is the point. Many times when kids immerse themselves in to the world of gaming, they have a hard time separating the consequences of real life from the lack of consequences of the game.
What can parent do to help their kids find a healthy balance? First of all, move the gaming system out of the teen’s bedroom and into the family room or another common area of the home. If you set boundaries and rules, your child will learn to find other ways to spend their time.
Spend more time as a family. Have family game night, and make it a board game! Take your family bowling or hiking. Plan a family outing and let everyone participate in the planning stage. If you give your child other options for fun they just might find another interest.
Parents need to set limits on gaming and encourage their kids to get outside and socialize with other teens. Your child will build important social skills and you will find you have a stronger bond. Put family first and it will benefit all of you!