So your kid has the gaming bug — glued to the screen, fingers gripping the controller, sun going down as the blue light of the screen fills the room. Sound familiar?
As a parent, whether or not you are a gamer yourself, you may be wondering if this is healthy gaming. And in fact, it may not be. The World Health Organization has identified something called “gaming disorder,” which is defined as “a pattern of gaming behavior (‘digital-gaming” or “video-gaming’) characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.”
Don’t get freaked out, though. It’s okay for your kids to be into gaming, you just need to find a balance between supporting their hobby and making sure they have a healthy lifestyle. Enter healthy gaming habits. Setting rules and putting routines in place for your kids and teens now will not only be good for them in the present moment, but it can help them keep healthy gaming habits into their adult life.
Set rules and boundaries
As a parent, you probably know the importance of setting boundaries for your kids. Children need structure and routine to thrive. So it’s very important to set some rules as far as when and for how long kids can play video games. You don’t want them sitting in front of the TV or computer all day long.
The Child Mind Institute cites The American Academy of Pediatrics as saying that “time allotted should be under 30 to 60 minutes per day on school days and 2 hours or less on non-school days. The group recommends even lower limits of under 1 hour of total screentime per day for children under 6 years old.” The site also recommends that parents only allow gaming time after homework, chores or other responsibilities are met.
Take breaks for stretching
Stretching is a great healthy gaming habit to instill in your kids. Sitting still for long periods of time can be detrimental to their health, so you want to make sure they are getting their blood flowing and their muscles working. Some great easy stretches they can do while gaming are ankle rolls, thumb abductors (any gamer knows how important the thumbs are) and neck rolling. Here's a full list of gaming stretches and how to do them.
Incorporate cardio into their gaming routine
Andres, 34, says he used to be what one would call a “hardcore” gamer. He is still a gamer, but he found a way to integrate diet and exercise into his gaming life (he lost 100 pounds on the keto diet!). He has a tip for incorporating some cardio into a gaming routine: He does a set of jumping jacks or push ups every time he loses a round. But you could do any exercise — a walk, a sprint, going up and down the stairs, jumprope. Challenge your kids to this and make this healthy gaming habit feel like a fun game. You can even do it with them!
“It's no secret that sitting in the same place for too long can be really detrimental to your body so this is something every gamer should consider. If that's too much trouble, just getting up and going for a short walk every couple of hours will do wonders as well,” added Andres.
Have healthy gaming snacks handy
Go-to gaming snacks tend to be junk foods like chips, candy and soda. Get your kids into the healthy gaming habit of eating right by offering them the right kinds of snacks. If you’re not a gamer yourself, you may not know that a good gaming snack is one-handed and creates little to no mess. Rez Bars are made with gaming and health in mind, so they’re a no brainer! But you can also have nuts, dates, cheese, jerky and zero-calories flavored seltzer water on hand.
Ask your kids about their gaming
If you’re not a gamer, you may not really get the appeal of video games. But it’s important to get involved for two reasons: 1. It’s good to bond with your child over their interests. 2. It’s important to make sure they are playing appropriate video games for their age. It’s no secret that there are a lot of violent video games out there. It’s your right and duty as a parent to determine which games are too adult for them. “You can and should prevent purchase and use of games with extreme violence or graphic sexual content,” writes the Child Mind Institute.
Set a good example
If you are a gamer and a parent, it’s very important to practice what you preach. How will it look if you’re eating chips and sitting for hours on end with no exercise? Your children look up to you, so by incorporating healthy gaming habits into your life, you will inspire them to do the same!