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PLAY: Psychologist Advice For Healthy Gaming

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We sat down with Emma Kenny, a psychologist, TV presenter, writer and expert media commentator to see what advice she offers families wanting to get more from the games they were playing. Specifically, she spoke to us about effective strategies for using Parental Controls.

Get involved!

Your kids want you to understand their wider world, they want you to feel excited about the things that excite them. Make a concerted effort to get to know the games that they play, the sites that they visit and the web world that they inhabit. This leads to greater trust, and makes your child feel understood and valued.

Give it time!

You need to experience something 21 times before it becomes a healthy habit. This means that when you place parental controls on your kid’s cyber experience, that it will take around three weeks before they get used to the new system. Try to be patient and understanding with their feelings and frustration within this initial phase, and know that sticking to this new routine will pay dividends in the long-term 

Be clear!

Children need to understand why you are making changes to their usual routine. If you simply put parental controls in place without involving your kids, then chances are that they will see it as a punishment, and this will make the process feel more upsetting than it needs to be. Explain that you are creating positive boundaries because you love them, and ask their advice regarding times that work best for them to be online. Children are less afraid when they feel involved 

Be honest!

Explain that it is your job to offer your kids a range of activities and opportunities that provide the best childhood possible. A good analogy is to remind them that we all have a favourite food, but if we only ate that one food, we would fail to thrive. Explain that every human needs a balance of different experiences and activities to enjoy life fully, and parental controls make sure that you make room for other play and creative activities 

Be strong!

The one thing that screws up any new system is having flexible boundaries. Your kids are going to test how committed you are to having time constraints on their technology, so make sure that you buckle down and see the early stages through. They will try to manipulate you to give in to their demands by getting angry, or asking for rewards because of good behaviour, but it is essential to push through with your parental controls commitment if you are going to make a permanent change 

Get creative!

Kids like to be active, so creating a schedule of games, activities and fun alternatives to being online ensures that your children always have something to look forward to. Sit down with your kids and create a wish list of fun things that they want to try, games they want to play and projects they wish to work on. This means they make the most of their off-line experience.

Tech neutral!

Never use technology time as a reward, or punishment, as research shows that this heightens a child's desire to be online. Make sure that you reinforce a neutral attitude towards tech, by being really positive about the activities they engage in offline.

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Andrew Robertson
Andy Robertson is the editor of AskAboutGames and has written for national press and broadcast about video games and families for over 15 years. He has just published the Taming Gaming book with its Family Video Game Database.