Well, if they really are glued to the console, their sibling probably got crazy glue for the holidays. But, more than likely, they just disappeared into their rooms, coming out only occasionally, bleary-eyed, to grab some food and then return back to their cave.
How bad is incessant video gaming?
I think it's all about duration and intensity. When combined with multi-tasking (texting, BBMing, Facebooking, or watching a movie at the same time), I believe your child's noggin is being trained to be three miles wide and one inch deep.
What do we do about it?
One of my clients calls it the cereal factor. He has noticed that during school time, his brain is crispy like new cereal that is ready to eat (mmmm, cereal). But when break time comes, the brain ends up looking and acting like cereal that has been in the milk or soy-based substitute way too long. We get mushy brain.
The holidays are one thing, now it's school time!
In a previous article, I did make some suggestions on how to get your kids through the holidays mush-free (click here to see it), but now they are back in school and every moment that they are not at school, they are at their video games.
How do you approach this?
Find a mentor!
It could be a music teacher, it could be a neighbour, it could be a professional coach (that's what I do most of the week), but it should not be a parent. Insight rarely comes easily from someone too close.
Seven steps for coming unglued.
1) Have the mentor help your teen look at their weekly schedule of classes.
2) Break it down with a scheduler (iCal or Google Calendar are good) and write out their whole week, including start and stop times for classes, transportation time, outside commitments (hockey, music lessons, etc.) and social time.
3) Include the amount of time (including start and stop times) presently spent doing homework.
4) Ask your teen to estimate the amount of time required for home study on each subject. Then ask what the teacher's recommendation is and take both and meet them halfway.
5) Look at sleep prep time, sleep time (approximate) and waking time and include this as part of the schedule.
6) Take a look at the free time available for gaming. (It's never enough, is it?)
7) The tricky part: help determine how much increased time will be spent on school work and have the teen commit to it. This can be done one of three ways:
a) A weekly report in a chart where the student writes the daily work and the duration of practice.
b) A daily email to the mentor giving the same details
c) Texts after each section in a day is completed. E.g.: jst did 40 min math -- my brain hurts ☹
If your teen really wants to do well, this should be enough to help them start to take control of the scheduling and get back on track. If not, when the first tests come in, go over the whole system and ask the teen to figure out where they could have done more work or study more efficiently. Then implement step seven in reverse; going from c to b to a when appropriate.
Video games have a magical quality to them. There is some good in them, no matter what you read about them and it probably will become a big part of most people's future. We do want to live in the real world, however. Having gentle limits that are guided, but ultimately come from the teen, are the ones that will help them when they are out on their own.
A recent study found that older men were actually playing more video games then their younger counterparts.
Moderation and self-limits, these are the keys.
Now where's my Angry Birds app?