#AskParentHub: My child is spending more time gaming now we’re in isolation. Should I be concerned?

April 15th, 2020

Right now, families are more reliant on technology than ever before – and yes, kids will spend more time gaming.

This doesn’t have to be a problem. You may find that gaming helps your child to stay well and happy by:

  • connecting with friends
  • learning new skills
  • staying physically active – e.g. sporting or dance games
  • escaping briefly from the stress, fear and sadness of COVID-19.

The question is not necessarily ‘How much time is my child spending gaming?’, but rather ‘How is gaming affecting my child and the rest of my family?’

There are risks associated with gaming, including:

  • unwanted contact from strangers via online multiplayer games
  • cyber bullying – often between kids who know each other offline
  • content being copied and saved so that players cannot delete it completely
  • in-game purchases encouraged and taken from parents’ bank accounts
  • mimicking and normalising of gambling on some gaming sites.

But parents can take steps to strengthen their children’s safety and wellbeing. These include:

  1. Enjoy and understand your kids’ games
  • Spend time gaming with your children. You can have fun together and learn why they enjoy these games and how the games work.
  • Research their games – e.g. using the eSafety Guide – including their classifications, reviews, warnings and potential for in-game spending. Find out if the games are monitored, and how to block and report bad behaviour.
  • Choose games where you can decide who you play with, limiting it to people you know.
  • Choose games that promote physical exercise or educational activities.
  1. Talk with your children
  • Make time to regularly talk about technology and what’s happening online.
  • Assure your kids that you would want them to tell you if they had a bad experience online, and that you would not react by confiscating their devices.
  • Encourage them to reflect on how gaming makes them feel – before, during and after playing.
  • Talk with your kids about the importance of thinking before posting, treating people with kindness, and respecting people’s boundaries – e.g. not bombarding people with requests or messages.
  • Rehearse with your kids how to respond if someone’s behaviour makes them uncomfortable, including blocking and reporting things to the site or the eSafety Commissioner.
  • Explain that adults should not contact children online, ask children to share pics, videos or personal details, or urge children to keep secrets.
  1. Review your security
  • Ensure your children’s accounts are set to the highest privacy level.
  • Teach your children about the importance of keeping passwords and personal details private.
  • Review your parental controls, for example using the eSafety Commissioner. You may choose functions such as content filters and alerts if someone makes a purchase.
  1. Build good habits together
  • Work with your kids to set family rules about tech use. For example, you might agree to use devices in shared spaces like the living room, keep devices out of bedrooms, take breaks in between gaming levels, and have tech-free time during family meals and before bed.
  • Make time for enjoyable offline activities. These might include gardening, caring for animals, art, music, reading, or physical exercise.
  1. Learn the warning signs of problem gaming

These include:

  • withdrawal from family and friends
  • sleeping problems
  • dropping school marks
  • loss of interest in things they used to enjoy
  • negative mood changes
  • changes in how much money they have
  • hygiene problems
  • changes to eating patterns
  • excessive preoccupation with gaming
  • often losing track of time while gaming.

Seek help if you need it – e.g. from Parentline, Kids Helpline, or eheadspace.

  1. Keep learning