your 11 -year -old is obsessed with video games. Well, let's talk about that today on Tips on
Teens. My name is Kent Toussaint. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist, and I specialize
in helping kids, teens, and families live happier lives. I lead two organizations. Hold on,
I gotta, I apologize for that. I lead two organizations. I lead the Group Private Practice Teen
Therapy Center and the non -profit 501c3 organization, Child and Teen Counseling, both here
in Woodland Hills, California. And every Wednesday at noon, I jump into Facebook Live to answer
your parenting questions. Today is no different. Let's jump into today's very common question.
We have an 11 -year -old son who is obsessed with video games and the computer. Screens have always
been something we have had to moderate with him as a child. He becomes a different person when
he is on them. In prior years, we have had to take a screen break during the whole summer. And let
me tell you, he becomes chatty, excited about
being outdoors, and more motivated. Hey, who would've known? Now that all school and homework
are online, he is grumpy, unmotivated, and glued to his screen. All his friends are online playing
video games, and he feels it is the only thing he really excels at. He says his dream is to be a famous
YouTuber. I'm all about helping our kids follow their dreams, but I am not sure this will help
him be a better person in the long run. Since he is so good with video games and computers, should
we be guiding him towards educational courses like coding, video game design, et cetera? Or
will that just lean him more into the isolation of the virtual world? How can we teach him to be
responsible and balanced with screens when all school's online? This has been the biggest
challenge with our son. Please help. Thank you for this question. It's something that we address
in many different angles often, because it's such a big topic for so many families. I'd like
to start with this and preface this by saying
that video games, there is nothing more fun than a video game. I will repeat that, because I think
it bears repeating. There is nothing on earth that is more fun than a video game. That means learning
to play guitar, playing basketball, going on a hike with friends, going to grandma's house
for dinner. Nothing compares. And the example I give, because again, you have an 11 -year -old
who is just starting this adolescence, the brain development of what adolescence is. So things
like impulse control, emotional regulation, the ability to see cause and effect, all that
is impaired for the next seven years especially, and then going on to 25. It's a big deal. There's
a lot going on with that prefrontal cortex that's developing right now. So all that is impaired.
But the emotions are the biggest they've ever been. So there's gonna be a lot of impulsive behavior.
And we are impulsive too, as adults, all of us, especially when it comes to food and food choices.
We are all make poor choices with
food. We wanna make good choices. Like you could have that kale and quinoa salad with the roasted
mushrooms and the splash of freshly squeezed lemon juice, and it'll taste good, and you feel
healthy, and you feel great. But if you have the homemade chocolate cake and gourmet ice cream
bowl in front of you, and you can only pick one or the other, we all know what we're gonna eat, especially
if you're stressed. We all think we wanna pick the kale salad, but it's gonna be the cake and ice
cream. And for some of you, it's not cake and ice cream. Some of you, it's cigarettes. Some of
you, it's beer, right? Pick your vice. But we all fall prey to these impulses. An 11 -year -old
or a 14 -year -old or even a 17 -year -old is much more prone to these impulses, especially if your
kid has attention issues or has some developmental delays. So these are all really big. So I
think it's important that you don't wanna squash his dreams. If he wants to be a YouTuber, let
him dream that. Who knows if he's
gonna be a YouTuber? How many of you are doing the career you thought you were gonna be doing at
year 11? Most of us, not. So don't worry about that. If he has an interest in coding and design,
of course, get him involved in those things. Those can be really productive. Where I think you
need to find the balance is help him find balance in his real world. Make sure that he is seeing
people face -to -face. Now he's gonna say, but my friends aren't meeting face -to -face. It's
a quarantine, number one, which may be part of the problem. And number two, they're all online.
They're all on Minecraft. Why would we go meet at the park and play basketball when we're all
already here and we can all have this much fun? And that's when you may have to involve all the
other parents and see if they're in your pod, if they're handling the quarantine the way you
are handling it, if you guys feel safe being around each other, what are those boundaries? You
gotta work all that out. But getting face -to -face
with people and doing things, getting back into Boy Scouts, getting back into rock climbing
or soccer or whatever those things are, I think is really important. It's a challenge now because
of quarantine. I get that. And there's gonna be some limitations. But make sure that also in
your house, you have screen -free time, a block of time where there are no screens, which means
you too. You have to be off the screen. So if you say from 7 p .m. to 9 p .m., no screens, no TVs, no
phones, that means everyone across the board. You can't be there saying, well, I'm waiting
for a text from grandma. You can't do that. Or I've got a work thing. It's hypocritical and your
kids will call it out and they won't buy into it. You need to follow the same path. You need to walk
the path you want them to walk. It's not easy. It's really challenging. But finding boundaries,
finding balance. If your kid really wants to be a gamer and a YouTuber, great, but he has to have
other things too. Basketball, Boy Scouts,
robotics, whatever that is. As long as he's out in the world, it's really important. And engaging
with the family, that's also important. And be mindful, if you're on the screen all the time
as well, you may need to start setting a stronger example for your kids. And I know, I love my iPhone
too. We all love our devices, but they're addictive and we get obsessed with them. And every
time we're bored, we want to go to them. So if you're doing that, imagine how your 11 -year -old
feels. It's a big topic. We can go, I could do a whole workshops on this. So I can always crack some
service on this. But if you have more questions, give me a call and we can talk more about this.
Also, if you like your question answered like this one, the next Tips on Teens, at teentherapycenter
.com. Or you can direct messages right here on Facebook. We love your questions. Thank you so
much. My name is Kent Toussaint. I'll see you guys next Wednesday at noon on Facebook Live for
Tips on Teens. See you later,
To a teenager there is nothing on earth that is more fun than a video game. Learning guitar, playing basketball, going to grandma’s house for dinner… nothing will match the thrill of video games. Parents need to remember that impulse control, emotional regulation, the ability to see cause and effect are all still developing until their child is 25. A teen or adolescent is more prone to impulses, especially if they have attention issues or developmental delays.
Similarly, If you’re trying to cut down on your teen’s screen time, remember this: you have to set the example. You may need to implement some screen-free time at home, and you as the parent need to follow the same path, or it won’t work.
Here’s this week’s Tips on Teens question:
“We have an 11 year old son who is obsessed with video games and the computer. Screens have always been something we have had to moderate with him as a child. He becomes a different person when he is on them. In prior years, we have had to take a ‘screen break’ during the whole summer, and let me tell you, he becomes chatty, excited about being outdoors and more motivated.
Now that all school and homework are online, he is grumpy, unmotivated and glued to his screen. All his friends are online playing video games and he feels it is the one thing he really excels at. He says his dream is to be a famous YouTuber. I am all about helping our kids follow their dreams but I am not sure this will help him be a better person in the long run.
Since he is so good with video games and computers, should we be guiding him toward educational courses like coding, video game design, etc? Or will that just lean him more into isolation and the virtual world? How can we teach him to be responsible and balanced with screens when all school is online?
This has been the biggest challenge with our son, please help!”
Concerned about the influence of commercials and social media on your kid’s development? Check out Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood.
Clinical Director Kent Toussaint answers your parenting questions every Wednesday at 12:00pm in our weekly segment Tips On Teens on Facebook Live. Have questions about parenting kids and teens? Send them to: TipsOnTeens@TeenTherapyCenter.com. We love to hear from you!
Head on over to our Facebook page every Wednesday at 12:00pm to watch LIVE! Check out our page here – https://www.facebook.com/TeenTherapyCenter/
If you have more questions or would like more information, please contact our Clinical Director, Kent Toussaint at 818.697.8555.