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Internet and (online) games are part of every child’s world. Still, you might be worried or have questions about gaming? When is a child spending too much time behind a screen? What guidelines are there for this? How can you make sure that gaming does not become a problem?

If your child gets a new game, chances are he or she will want to play it every day. This need not be a reason to panic. But after the initial enthusiasm, the game should be given a place alongside many other leisure activities such as contact with peers, hobbies and sports.

It is important to have a healthy balance between internet, games and all other forms of entertainment. This starts as early as the toddler age.

How often and when

A three-year-old should not be allowed to play for more than 5 minutes at a time. A toddler (4 to 6 years old) should not be allowed to play longer than 10 minutes at a time.

Even with older children and adolescents, it is important to limit the time. Agree a daily time limit. Take into account the time the child or adolescent spends behind a screen apart from gaming (internet, homework on PC, TV, etc.).

Try to ensure a balance with non-screen related activities (offline contacts, sports, hobbies,…).

Determine also the moments when playing is allowed, e.g. only after homework is finished, not just before going to bed,…

Interest in what they are playing

Gaming is not necessarily a bad thing. It can be instructive. Children can also sharpen their skills. Very young children especially enjoy playing together with their parents. In this way, you create space for interaction (asking questions, encouraging, helping with the game) and the link to real life can also be made (when were you happy, sad, which animal do you like).

It is also important to show interest in older children and adolescents. How does the game work? What is so nice about it? How can you tell how much life the character has? Talk about ways of keeping track of time so that gaming does not come at the expense of something else.

How do you keep your child's gaming healthy?

Which games

Discuss which games can be played. The PEGI rating system can help in the search for age-appropriate games. Having lots of games is not better. Limit the choice. Some aspects of certain games make it easier to play excessively. This is the case, for example, with games with the following characteristics:

  • the connection with other gamers in an online game
  • The endlessness of certain games
  • The fact that the gamer can choose his own identity
  • But your child’s personal sensitivities can also play a role, such as the need for quick kicks, a tendency to procrastinate, difficulty in social situations, etc.

Keep an eye on things

Keep the computer and game console in the living room. This way you can keep an eye on your child’s gaming behaviour. Other devices such as portable game consoles, smartphones and tablets can also be given a permanent place in the living room.

Time for a change

Help your child to organise his/her time. Teach him or her that gaming can have a healthy place in it. For example, your child can reward him or herself with something fun (such as a game) when schoolwork is done.

Encourage your child to make plans with (real-life) friends, have friends over (to do other activities together than gaming) and involve children as much as possible in fun things or household activities that you can do together.

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