‘My son overcame his anxiety’: parents on how screentime isn’t all bad

By  | 

We asked you for your views after a charity warned parents were increasingly worried about their childrens screentime and possible gaming addiction

Screen time and how to control it has replaced homework and healthy eating as a parents main concern, according to charity Action for Children. After the Observer reported the findings of its survey last week we asked parents to share their experiences and perspectives.

While some who contacted us expressed concerns about their childrens habits, most had found constructive ways to see the positives in activities such as online gaming. Many were pragmatic in their approach to parenting in an age of iPads, gaming and constant connectivity that, as one parent puts it, is not going to end. Below are some of their views.

For our son, who has anxiety, gaming was a way to fit in

Screen time for my children varies dramatically depending on the time of year. As soon as spring comes until autumn, theyre hardly ever inside. With the darkness comes TV and gaming, probably for around 15 hours per week, though to me it hasnt become an addiction as they can easily stop when asked to.

Video games are often presented as detrimental to children: this may or may not be true, but in my personal experience, our two children seem to have mostly gotten joy, fun, learning and confidence from gaming.

Our oldest has anxiety and gaming was a way for him to fit in with his peers and does make life easier for him. Hes very sociable and its a helpful way for boys especially to chat, while gaming together. Without a doubt gaming gave him an area to fit in with and often be better than his peers at something.

At 11 he was one of the last of the boys in his class to have a certain 18 rated video game and he was bullied mercilessly for this. We relented, but have kept it on a game to game basis, and we research things together to see if its OK. Pausing our parental discomfort with the age rating wasnt easy and is socially frowned upon, but the important thing for us was to keep talking together, to be involved with what they are both doing, which can be challenging.

Many parents and adults arent aware of the enormous development, sophistication and variety of games there are for every age group, and often arent aware of the social aspects of modern gaming life. Safety is of course important here, that kids who chat online genuinely know each other, but with proper guidelines and parental safeguards and input it can be a really fun experience.

The industry could help parents by making games with more intricate story lines, skill sets similar to adult games, or options for less violent graphics in existing games as some have done. Children like a challenge. Parents like feeling that their childrens minds are safe.
Claire, London, two children aged 8 and 13.

Parents need to be engaged with the screen time too

In general Im unconcerned about the amount of screen time my children have, especially when it is gaming, which engages the mind more than just TV that said I believe its important to ensure that outdoor activity is more or equal to the time in front of screens.

Chris and family

I think concerns around screen time are always too broad. The types of things done and the supporting activities around screen time define whether it is healthy or not. It also boils down to the parents being engaged. I know the names of a wide number of cartoon characters and me and my kids discuss them a lot. In the same way I play games Im interested in with the kids, and we again talk about motivations, actions, hair styles, etc of computer characters from Sonic to Lux.

Using educational apps and interactive stories on the iPad has improved my childrens language, counting, reading etc. They benefit from not only educationally focused apps/games, though, but also from conversations that arise from gaming. They enjoy time with me playing a variety of games from Hearthstone to Marvel Lego to League of Legends. They also play and other family members, sometimes online when they wouldnt otherwise be able to see them.
Chris, 30, Sheffield. Has two children, aged 4 and 2

If we harness the options they give to educate then that will be a great achievement

Its a concern in that my son cannot separate himself from an iPad, which has replaced the TV for him even when playing on his PS4. YouTubers are the pinnacle of cool to a 10 year old but even with security settings in place there are random and inappropriate options appearing. I cannot (and do not want to) police his every move so we talk about it and I have to have a degree of trust that he will not click through to the barely covered women who appear in the sidebar. Honestly hes not that interested in them at 10 but that is very likely to change. Id say the tablet is an addiction but not gaming yet, though he probably spends 25 hours in front of a screen each week.

The only thing he loves more than FIFA is actually playing football so all hope is not yet lost as he does play quite a bit.

Its not going to end; iPads, tablets and gaming are the future. If we harness the options they give to educate then that will be a great achievement. Pokemon Go, for example, has been amazing in getting kids (and others) out and active our response as parents needs to be reasoned and appropriate. I dont want to ban any of this I do want to know how I keep my child safe online and need more evidence about the possibility of addiction.
Kate, Nottingham. Has a child aged 10.

We also make sure that time spent together is quality family time

My husband and I are also gamers and our children spend equally as much time in front of a screen as we do, around 20 hours per week: it is part of our everyday lives.

Christina and family

My son is allowed to play non-realistic violent games such as Plants vs. Zombies, driving games, other adventure games, and he loves creative mode in Minecraft. He also enjoys socializing with online friends and watching videos. My daughter, only three, plays Sesame Street games. Positives I think they get are through socializing in creative worlds, math skills and problem solving.

We are alright with time spent in front of a screen because they jump at the chance to do other activities with us like swimming, camping, or baking. As long as homework and chores are done my kids are free to do what they want. My daughter still plays with toys and books and my son plays with Lego and Nerf any time screens are off or friends are over. In addition, we try to make sure to eat dinner at the table as a family.

We all spend more time in front of screens than most families do I think, but we also make sure that time spent together is quality family time, even if it is all of us cozied up on the couch with some popcorn watching a movie.
Christina Jones, Edmonton. Has two children aged 9 and 3.

Games for children are clearly designed to be addictive

My children are allowed 30 minutes per day on the iPad or computer. I have to make sure they stop when the time is up which they resist. They seem obsessed with having their computer time and often cant think of anything else until it is over.

I feel that playing computer games is too easy a way to pass the time, and means they dont have to use their imagination as much, or put in the same amount of effort a they would to a real life project. The lack of physical activity when playing computer games rather than real games is a concern to me. Games for children are clearly designed to be addictive and they dont have the self control to ration their own time. That said I am happier if they play creative or educational games such as Minecraft, or learn to use programs for drawing and coding.

They can get very frustrated when asked to stop because the allotted time is up. However, generally they accept that it makes sense to have an allowance.

Thinking of the positives: they are very IT literate. In some games they learn useful skills such as logic, problem solving and cooperation. My daughter is learning basic programming using Scratch. In the future IT will be ubiquitous so it is important for them to have these skills. My latest concern is their interest in watching gaming videos on YouTube. They use their TV time to watch Minecraft videos. I am going to stop them from doing this, as it becomes an extension of computer time: I would rather they watched something on the BBC designed for children to watch, for variety.
Tamsin, north Wales. Has two children, aged 3 and 6.

  • Some names have been changed

Read more:

We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By agreeing you accept the use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.

Privacy Settings saved!
Privacy Settings

When you visit any web site, it may store or retrieve information on your browser, mostly in the form of cookies. Control your personal Cookie Services here.

We use Google Tag Manager to monitor our traffic and to help us AB test new features.

Decline all Services
Accept all Services