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Worried your kid is gaming too much? Here's what to do

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ABC Everyday / By Kellie Scott

"But, the right amount of screen time can depend on a range of factors, such as your child's age and maturity, the kind of content they're consuming, their learning needs and your family routine."

Age and maturity matter Dr Orlando says the world leading digital guidelines come from the American Psychological Association, which only provide screen time recommendations from children up to the age of five.


"For children six and up, establish consistent limits on the time spent using media and the types of media," it writes. Dr Orlando says the fact the association has removed time limits for children above five "says a lot".


"We do tend to think we have to count how many minutes and hours my child is on technology. That might have been viable five years ago, but the world or tech has changed so much," she says. "Age is a big part of how long a healthy amount of time is — I don't think it's healthy for a five-year-old to be playing a game two hours every day by themselves … but for a 14-year-old that might be different."

Screen time for children

  • Under 18 months, avoid screen-based media except video chatting.

  • 18 months to 24 months, parents should choose high-quality programming and watch with their children.

  • Two to five, limit screen time to one hour per day of high-quality programming.

  • Six and up, establish consistent limits on the time spent using media and the types of media.

Source: American Psychological Association


Work on what fits in with your family and routine, recommends Dr Orlando. "What you might do on a Wednesday night in school term is probably different to what you will do in middle of school holidays," she says.


"There is a need for flexibility, as family lifestyle changes, as a child gets older, you need to adjust it."

Media expert Professor Jeffrey Brand from Bond University agrees, adding gaming can keep kids out of trouble.


"If you're on school holidays, you've got nothing better to do, all your friends are on holidays, your parents are at work, as long as it's all been discussed, and you know the guidelines, I say go for it, because it will probably keep you out of trouble."

Coaxing your child away from the video game

Your child cracking it when you ask them to come away from a game isn't necessarily a sign they're addicted, explains Kristy Goodwin, a digital wellbeing researcher and author.

"It's a typical neurobiological response. Gaming often releases the neurotransmitter dopamine, which makes kids feel really good, so when you scream out to turn off the game and come and sit at the dinner table or go and do your homework … you are literally terminating their dopamine supply," she says.

To avoid the meltdowns Dr Goodwin has dubbed "techno tantrums", follow these tips:


Give them a warning

"We call it [warning] cognitive priming," Dr Goodwin says. "Warn them that they need to soon turn off, but give them ample time to finish the level or communicate to their peers they will switch off soon."

Dr Orlando says 10 to 15 minutes is usually enough to complete what they are doing.

"Call them off every day, mid-game, you're going to get a bit of push back. So let them finish the game — usually an extra 10 to 15 minutes."

Professor Brand says it's harder for some kids to unplug after an hour or two, but the longer you leave it the more difficult it becomes.

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