Online safety / September 12, 2019

Online games: how much is too much?

Nimmi Kanji

Nimmi Kanji

Director - Social Purpose Programs, For Good and TELUS Wise

Online Gaming Child

If you’re a parent of school-aged kids, there’s a good chance you’ve had a conversation about online games with your child. I have an 8 and 11 year-old at home and this past summer has seen many conversations over why they should be allowed to play Fortnite, as well as negotiations around how much time they’re allowed on Minecraft. And if Minecraft time is up, they may resort to asking to play Prodigy, an online math game, touting it’s “educational benefits”. Whether it’s a plea for permission to download the hottest new game “everyone's playing”, or a frustrated conversation about why they should get “just five more minutes”, I can relate.

It’s not surprising that one of the biggest concerns raised by parents in TELUS Wise workshops is about time spent playing video games. How much is too much? As is the case with screen time, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. The time you alot for online gaming and screen time in general depends on a variety of factors, including the age and maturity of your child, the type of game that is being played, and even the day of the week or time of day.

On the one-hand, gaming can be beneficial for children, teaching and further developing communication, cooperation and problem-solving skills, as well and improving math and language literacy. But on the other hand, gaming can be viewed as problematic, especially as it consumes more and more of our children’s time. Our newest guide, developed with MediaSmarts and titled “Helping our kids safely navigate video games,” outlines some clear signs to watch for that may be indicative of a potential problem.

Consider these questions:

  • Does your child spend an increasing amount of time playing video games?
  • Does your child try to control, cut back or stop playing video games, or play for longer than they intended?
  • Does your child get restless or irritated when they can’t play video games?
  • Does your child play video games more often when they feel bad (sad, angry or nervous) or are facing problems (i.e. at school/work/with family)?
  • Does your child skip school or work so that they can play video games?
  • Do they ignore homework, go to bed late, or spend less time with family and friends because of their video game playing?
  • Do they hide their video game playing from you or their friends?

If you answer yes to one or more of these questions, it is possible that gaming is, or is beginning to hamper your child’s daily functioning and/or negatively impacting their life. Family rules, close monitoring, and even counselling for more serious cases may be required to help address the situation.

Download the guide to learn more about how parents can help their children have a healthier relationship with games and review these tips for managing screens in your home.

Apps & gaming
Kids & tech
Safe digital habits
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