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Children's Health Month
CAN GAMING
BE FUN & HEALTHY?

Children are vulnerable to stress and mental health problems from preschool through the high school years. A healthy childhood requires a balance of academics, fun activities, life skills, and other experiences to support healthy growth and development.  Children and families need to be supported through a health and wellness approach including social, emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual components.  However, in this current climate of a worldwide pandemic, maintaining a healthy environment of wellness is challenging for all families.

During this current health crisis, activities now have to be redesigned and energies redirected. We need to evaluate and maintain a healthy and balanced environment for the whole family, especially for our children:

  • Think – setting aside time without distractions (such as video games) to contemplate, to dream and to just “be” is important. Engaging in journaling or art can be other forms of expression.
  • Talk Openly – creating an environment where children can feel free to ask questions and talk about things that concern them.
  • Relax – creating moments to wind down, whether it be reading a book, taking a long walk, taking a bubble bath, practicing mindfulness, or just sitting outside and watching the sky.
  • Eat Well – a nutritious and balanced diet feeds the body and the mind.
  • Get Enough Sleep – school aged children need 9-11 hours of sleep to perform their best academically and decrease stress.
  • Be Active – encourage activity, both outdoors (sports, biking) and indoors (hobbies and crafts).
  • Reduce Stress – maintaining a “normal” routine is important, as is encouraging our children to develop positive life skills such as problem solving, anger management, and coping skills. Smaller problems can lead to bigger problems if not addressed early on, this is the key to prevention science.

For many families, loosening restrictions on the amount of time children spend gaming (playing on X-Box, etc.) has helped relieved stress and keep children active, taking their minds off restrictions of normal activities they used to be able to do before the pandemic.  Gaming as a main source for children to relive tension and increase relaxation can itself become a problem.

Gaming can become addictive. It is important for adults to know the signs when gaming may be out of control:

  • Preoccupation with video games.
  • Withdrawal symptoms when gaming is taken away.
  • Tolerance – the need to spend increasing amounts of time engaged in video games.
  • Unsuccessful attempts to control participation in video games.
  • Loss of interests in previous hobbies.
  • Continued excessive use of games despite knowledge of psychosocial problems.
  • Deception of family members, therapists, or others regarding gaming habits.
  • Use of video games to escape or relieve a negative mood.
  • Jeopardizing or loss of a significant relationship, job, educational, or career opportunity because of participation in video games.

As adults, we have a responsibility to be role models. Implement safety tips within your family such as: monitor and limit time spent on gaming; follow game rating systems; no gaming systems in bedrooms; and increase the options of non-electronic play time.

If you have children in your life (or any family member) whose gaming activity is increasing, have a conversation with them about gaming and gambling and implement guidelines to ensure the right choices are made and a balanced life maintained:

  • Choose the right time and let them know you are concerned for them in a caring manner
  • Be specific about the behaviors you have seen and
  • Listen non-judgmentally to what they are saying
  • Let them know you are willing to help. Maryland has no cost support and treatment for gambling problems.
  • Discuss that gambling is not risk-free and state the facts: 4-6% of teens develop a gambling problem.
  • Discuss how gambling is illegal under a certain age and there are consequences.
  • When talking about drugs and alcohol, discuss gambling as another addiction, and have the conversation multiple times.
  • Discuss how gambling, and excessive gaming play, relates to finances, spending, and saving money.
  • Use a lottery or casino ad on TV/Radio as teachable moment: i.e., losing things of value; odds of winning; casinos/lotteries are in the business to make money, etc.
  • If you have avid sports fans in your family, do have the conversation that sports, and gambling do not have to go together.

If you, or anyone you know, is struggling with problems due to gambling behaviors, call, text or chat TODAY!

 1-800-GAMBLER (1-800-426-2537)
Visit helpmygamblingproblem.org for additional resources.