Top tips for keeping gaming fun - not feral - this holiday season

Forget the sugar plums. For today’s digital kids, it's visions of a shiny-new XBox, PlayStation or Nintendo Switch that dance 'round their heads.

Here’s how to make sure holiday gaming stays fun and safe - and prevent good times from tipping over into compulsion.

The gaming industry was already experiencing a massive pandemic-driven surge, with console sales soaring as much as 200 percent year-on-year, and blockbuster games like Animal Crossing and Doom going, well, viral. 

It’s a trend that the Christmas holidays will only supercharge, with industry leaders Sony and Microsoft releasing new consoles with improved graphics, faster storage, and newly designed controllers for a more immersive 4K experience. 

PS%Global demand has been so intense, not even Santa can find a PS5 right now - let alone mere mortals like mum and dad.

That’s all exciting news - but it should also sound a note of caution for responsible digital parents. Because the more fun gaming becomes, the harder some kids may struggle to keep the habit under control.

When does gaming become problematic?

Debate continues to rage over the issue of what, exactly, constitutes problem gaming, let alone a bonafide gaming disorder. 

But most experts agree on three telltale signs:

  • Impaired control over gaming (e.g., gaming longer, more frequently, or being unable to stop gaming).
  • Increasing priority given to gaming over other life interests and daily activities.
  • Continuation or escalation of gaming despite negative consequences.

That said, a child who loves playing her favourite game may simply love playing her favourite game. It's certainly not necessarily a cause for alarm.

Writing in Psychology Today, Dr. Jonathan Stevens, Chief of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at The Menninger Clinic, notes that “While concerns over the addictive properties of video games are reasonable, there are also valid concerns over the risk of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of many gamers being labeled as pathological.”

Yet in this realm, as in so many others, prevention is so much smarter than cure - and kinder too. As Dr. Stevens and other experts advise, parents who are vigilant about setting boundaries and observing red flags can head off potential problems before they have a chance to take hold.

And that’s a winning strategy for the whole family.

Top tips to ensure gaming stays fun and safe

  • Data is a powerful tool for great digital parenting. Whether in the form of a spreadsheet or just a few jotted notes on your calendar, keep track of the time your child spends gaming. This will help you figure out if there are patterns that seem to be interfering with relationships, responsibilities, or hobbies. 
  • If gaming has clearly become too much of a timesuck, consider taking the whole family on a “digital holiday” or “tech break.” You don’t have go full Amish here. A tech-free day or weekend may do the trick to provide a refreshing circuit breaker. (Reminder: when it comes to creativity, boredom is our friend!)
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  • Encourage non-gaming interests and activities. Music, cooking, sport, gardening, craft, biking - the world is full of ways to have fun without a joystick. And don’t forget boardgames. Chess is having a huge moment right now, thanks in large part to the Netflix series “The Queen’s Gambit.” If your child is old enough - and that way inclined - think about teaching her to play.
  • Use Family Zone to block off time from gaming every day to re-balance physical and emotional needs. Strong, flexible parental controls like Family Zone can be introduced right alongside that new console or game - and will help enormously to ensure the gamers in your house get the proper meals, adequate sleep, regular exercise, and real-world social interaction they need.


With the Family Zone Box, you can manage every device on your home network - including  gaming consoles.

Create a home where digital children thrive, and start your free trial today.


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Topics: Cyber Bullying, Parental Controls, Screen time, Mobile Apps, Excessive Device Usage, Cyber Safety, gaming addiction, gaming disorder, pandemic parenting

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