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Supervision and Flexibility Are Key To Safe Online Gaming


In a single week Pokemon Go has reached more than 7.5 million users. It has sparked controversy because its use led to countless injuries and inspired criminals to set traps for unsuspecting teens.

Parents should consider ramping up supervision and monitoring to make sure their teens can enjoy the game safely and responsibly.

Some ideas for parents:

Rules should not be one size fits all:

Do not fall for the old trick “Well so-and- so’s mom lets them…” Phone controls and family rules should be worked out on a case-by- case basis — each teenager and parent is different.

Consider both your child’s actual chronological age and their developmental age. How do they handle age-appropriate responsibilities and following directions? The younger the child, or the younger the behavior, the more supervision they will need. A history of deception, not following directions or breaking rules, will mean more supervision is required.

Step up your supervision:

Supervision is knowing the “who, what, where, how” of your child’s life. If you are going to allow your child to use an app you should also have the app, know how to use it, know what it does, know who it contacts. You would not take your child to the airport and drop them off without knowing where they are going, who are they going to see, and how they are getting back. You should treat the internet, social media, and smartphone apps with the same caution as real life.

Have a family brainstorming session:

The best case scenario is to predict as many problems and create as many ground rules before play starts instead of after. Consider how long, how often, what behaviors are off limits (swearing, spending money without permission, sending private messages to strangers), what the consequences for misbehavior will be, how parents will check (will it be random, scheduled, both), what criteria will need to be met to continue having the privilege (bed made, homework complete, chores done, going to sleep on time), what criteria are automatic grounds for removal of the privilege (mood changes, not sleeping, dangerous behavior, noncompliance, overusing the family’s data allotment).

Enlist your child, other family members to contribute ideas for good and bad behavior, worrisome areas or problem spots, rewards and consequences.

Make your plan legit:

Draft a contract and write it down and have each member sign it… but also leave room for flexibility, such as, “we will review in two weeks and troubleshoot as necessary”.

Catch your child being good:

Monitoring shouldn’t just be about the negatives of a teen’s usage of a smartphone, but should acknowledge when they are doing well and acting responsibly with it.

Parents should be able to monitor when things are going well, as well as see the negatives. … What are the good things that parents would be proud of?

Things are much easier to deal with when small. And then when you are catching them doing good things you can teach the difference. Small encouragements are more powerful than consequences as a teaching tool. Give your child verbal praise, high fives, thumbs up when they put the game down, abide by the rules set out, share or explain to a younger child.

Use “Grandma’s rule.” If/then:

A special app like Pokemon-Go is a privilege. Consider linking use to completion of other chores or good behavior. Use an if-then philosophy. If you do this, then you can do that. But parents own this side of the negotiation not children. If your child says “If I do this then can I play Pokemon?” consider making it your own in some way. Also avoid saying “;If you play Pokemon now then you must… later.” This is a recipe for disaster because your child already has their privilege and has more power and no real incentive to comply.

Know the signs of Addiction:

Be prepared to intervene if you see your child withdrawing from activities once enjoyed, increased irritability, decreased sleep, sadness, anxiety, withdrawal when away from the phone or game. A therapist may be useful if your child is showing dangerous online behavior or tendencies toward addiction.

To speak with a therapist contact Birmingham Maple Clinic at (248) 646-6659 or visit www.birminghammaple.com