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Five Tips for Buying Right and Managing Video Gaming

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As the holidays approach, video gaming receives high status on many children/adult gift lists, and will likely consume many hours during the time away from school and work. But 9 out of 10 kids are playing video games too much and the A.M.A. is strongly considering adding video game addiction to a list of “formal disorders,” where it would join other problem behaviors such as pathological gambling. What can parents and spouses do to ensure a safe and healthy gift and free-time activity this holiday season?

Hilarie Cash, psychotherapist and co-founding Internet/Computer Addiction Services and Kim McDaniel Licensed Mental Health Counselor are recognized authorities on video game addiction and offer critical insight for parents and families.

A parents’ guide to buying video games.
Much needed advice to parents who are struggling to feel good about buying that video game. 7 out 10 parents do not know how to use the rating system. Games come in a complex variety of genres and are created with a “stickiness” factors that keep us playing. Why this is important? Certain types of games have more addictive properties than others (MMORPGs). Parents can easily minimize power struggles, by picking a style of game that isn’t as likely to hook their child.

How to know if a video game is appropriate for your family.
If you are uncertain ask the staff at a game store to show you a demonstration. Or, consider renting the game and playing it yourself. Consider where in your house the game will be played. Who else will be viewing the game? If you want to buy a Grand Theft Auto game for your nineteen-year-old, will his ten-year-old sister be watching over his shoulder? What to do if your child receives an inappropriate game as a holiday gift.

Straight talk about healthy limits.
All parents know that video games and power struggles go hand in hand, and nobody wants to deal with a temper tantrum while cooking the holiday turkey. Be prepared to talk about limits and gaming rules ahead of time. Kids will be out of school for the holiday break and they are going to want to play a lot. You may like for them to do more than stay in the house and play video games. Childhood obesity + excessive gaming = health risks. During their vacation limit daily gaming to two hours or less for grade school children, 3 hours for middle-schoolers, and 3 to 4 for high school aged teens.

Do we have a problem?
Recognize the dangers signs. Most parents recognize that “zombie” look, and know the sound of the angry growl that comes from a child whose gaming is interrupted. But, when to intervene? By learning the specific signs and symptoms of gaming addiction, parents can know that they are acting in their children’s best interests

The severity of gaming addiction.
The effects are alarming: couples are divorcing, adults are loosing their jobs and walking away from their families, college students are dropping out, teens are acting out violent plots, children are isolating, and babies are developing language deficits.

Co-authors of the recently released book Video Games and Your Kids: How Parents Stay in Control, Kim McDaniel and Dr. Hilarie Cash are pioneers in the fields of internet and gaming addiction. Their media experience on this topic includes interviews on NPR, CNN, PBS Frontline series, ABC news, the BBC, Fox’s Morning Show with Mike and Juliet. Interviews for print include the Seattle Times, Newsweek, USA Today, and the New York Times.

Video Games and Your Kids: How Parents Stay in Control was written for parents who are worried that their children may be spending too much time playing video games. Based upon the latest research and the authors’ clinical experience, the book explains what gaming addiction is, how much gaming is too much, and the effects gaming has on the brain and body. Advice is given for each specific stage of a child’s life; and where there is a problem, the author provides parents with the tools necessary to be successful.

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