6 things parents of teens must know about gaming:

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1.  Gaming is everywhere.  Online, mobile and console gaming is a billion dollar industry - it's bigger than Hollywood.  Half a billion people worldwide play online/computer/mobile/console games for at least half an hour a day - and only 25% of regular gamers are under 18.

2.  There are great things about gaming.  Regular gamers have better visual spatial skills than those who don't play.  After gaming, people do better on some cognitive tests.  Gaming has been found with decrease in stress and depression for many people in experimental trials.  Gaming is often social - people are playing, together online to solve problems.  And gaming is moving into solving real world problems - health, aid and social organisations are moving towards using gaming to get people to act prosocially and solve personal and world dilemmas.

3.  There is also a dark side to gaming.  Many games are professionally designed by psychologists and marketers to be addictive.  It is easy to spend increasing numbers of hours on games and to sacrifice other important areas of life in the pursuit of a gaming goal.  There are many teens (and adults) who are genuinely addicted to playing games.  Also, many games are violent and disturbing.  There is some - inconclusive but worrying - evidence that for some people playing violent games may increase they chance of them behaving in anti-social ways.  Finally, gaming is interfering with a generation of teenagers' sleep.  Watching that brightly lit screen late at night stops young people from sleeping well, which leads to tired, irritable and amotivated students.

4.  Its mostly about the quality of the time spent.  Every hour spent on gaming is a hour not spent doing something else.  What could the teenager be doing instead of gaming?  If it was simply watching TV or another arguably low importance task - then maybe gaming is a great stress-relieving, thinking skill-developing task.  If it was getting extra sleep or finishing off an overdue assignment - then maybe the gaming time is not well spent.

5.  Parents need to stop nagging teens about their gaming time and be cheerful about it instead. Being relentless negative about something a teenager loves to do is only going to turn them away from the most important people in their life - us.  Show interest in their gaming, ask questions about it, play with them, be happy for them when they pass a level.

6.  Parents need to stop nagging teens about their gaming and be cheerful about it instead AND AT THE SAME TIME - SET THE RULES.  Don't nag and lecture.  The teenager is going to ignore you and you will get resentful that they don't listen.  Instead pleasantly set the rules and stick to them.  "You game when this happens, between these hours, only this game and not that, not at this time and only when this happens.  We will review the rules on this date".  And then stick to it.  Don't walk away and expect them to follow the rules.  Be there, and make sure it happens.  Yes, there will be tears, tantrums and outrage. It will pass and you will be glad you took a stand.  

Remember:  Gaming: it's everywhere, it has advantages for the teen, there are pitfalls, it's about the time spent, parents need to be cheerful about it and set the rules.