My son would spend every waking moment playing online computer games if I let him. I’m concerned about the Internet horror stories I’ve heard, and I wish I could broaden his interests. Do you have any suggestions?
Many parents are beginning to realize that their child may be addicted to computer or video games – something they thought was simply harmless fun. The Internet-based games you mentioned are especially habit-forming. You’re wise to be concerned about the potential dangers they represent.
Players of these games compete against people around the globe. Some of them become obsessed with the “virtual” world of the gaming community. This is disturbing when you consider that one out of five kids has been solicited online for sex, and that one out of three ten- to seventeen-year-olds report having “accidentally” stumbled onto pornographic Web sites. Clearly, the Internet is not a safe place for kids to be spending vast amounts of time.
If you fear that your son may be seriously addicted to gaming, sit down with him and explain your concerns in simple, straightforward language. Tell him that you love him and want the best for him, and that because of this you’re going to start limiting the amount of time he spends online. Explain the importance of developing interests other than computer games and the Internet – of getting exercise, spending time outside, socializing with other young people. Encourage your son to brainstorm with you about other activities that might enjoy. It’s important to make it clear that no play will be allowed until chores and homework are completed, and that from this point forward all online activities will be closely monitored. In a worst-case scenario, you may need to get rid of the gaming equipment or block Internet access by means of parental controls.
After you’ve laid down the ground rules, it’s up to you to enforce them. Stick to your guns in spite of all the whining and complaining. If you’re consistent, it’s likely that your child will have developed some healthy new interests within a few short weeks. Balance is the key: children need to develop a wide variety of hobbies, activities, and social relationships, and it’s up to parents to guide and encourage them in the process.
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