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Digital Worlds: Supporting our Children

Are you ready to level up your knowledge on gaming? In this follow on to last months article on the digital world we are going to look at the impact on gaming on children who have experienced developmental trauma and the risks associated.

Children who have experienced Childhood Trauma may face unique challenges when engaging with video games. Childhood Trauma can include a range of experiences, including abuse, neglect, domestic violence, and other adverse circumstances that can have long-lasting effects on their physical and emotional wellbeing. So, when it comes to gaming, several potential pitfalls may be made worse by the impact of trauma.

Escapism and Avoidance: Children with trauma may use gaming as a means of escaping from distressing emotions or memories associated with their past. While gaming can provide temporary relief, excessive escapism may hinder their ability to process and cope with these experiences in a healthy manner, leading to avoidance behaviours and emotional numbing.

Social Isolation: Children with trauma may struggle with forming trusting relationships and may find comfort in online gaming communities where they can interact with others anonymously. However, we have to be mindful that excessive reliance on online interactions may lead to social isolation in real life, further increasing feelings of loneliness and alienation.

Risk of Re-traumatisation: Certain themes or content in video games, such as violence, abuse, or loss, may trigger traumatic memories or emotions in children who have experienced these traumas themselves. Exposure to such content without proper support and guidance can potentially re-traumatise them, increasing their emotional distress and undermining their sense of safety.

Impaired Emotional Regulation: Developmental trauma can disrupt the development of emotional regulation skills, making it hard for children to manage the intense emotions that gaming experiences, such as frustration, anger, or anxiety can trigger. This can manifest in impulsive or aggressive behaviours both online and offline, further complicating their interactions with others.

Neglect of Basic Needs: In extreme cases, compulsive gaming behaviour may lead to neglect of basic needs such as hygiene, nutrition, and sleep, particularly if the child becomes consumed by gaming to the exclusion of all else. This can have detrimental effects on their physical health and overall well-being.

Vulnerability to Online Risks: Children in care may be more susceptible to online risks such as cyberbullying, grooming, and exploitation due to underlying vulnerabilities stemming from their past trauma. Without proper guidance and supervision, they may be at greater risk of being victimised or engaging in risky online behaviours that compromise their safety and well-being.

So, how do we help these children manage their gaming safely? Well, the same as you would with any child if their online gaming behaviour was becoming problematic. Check out our top tips at the bottom of the page.

Navigating the digital world can be challenging, especially for children who have had traumatic experiences in their early lives. But, by setting boundaries, promoting healthy habits, and providing a supportive environment, you can help children develop a balanced relationship with gaming.

Next month, in the final article in this series we will look in more detail at one of the most debated topics in the realm of video gaming – the potential impact of violent content on children. Until then, may your gaming adventures be epic, and your screen time be balanced!

Top tips to help children manage their gaming safely

Establish Clear Boundaries and Guidelines

Set limits to establish clear and consistent screen time rules to ensure it doesn’t interfere with sleep, school, physical activity, and other important activities. Use parental controls and monitor the content of the games to ensure they are age-appropriate and do not contain triggering material: the Family Gaming Database is a great resource for checking games out before they are played you can find it here – www.familygamingdatabase.com

Get the balance right

Encourage other activities alongside the fun of gaming; participation in hobbies, sports, and other activities that can also provide a sense of achievement outside of gaming. Creating specific times for gaming and rotating it with activities like outdoor play, reading, and family interactions can also help get the balance right.

Teach them to keep themselves safe online

Giving children and young people the tools to keep themselves safe is the best thing you can do, but it’s not easy! Teach children about online privacy, protecting personal information, and recognising and handling cyberbullying or other interactions that don’t feel ‘good’. Help them understand the importance of interacting safely with others online and what to do if they feel unsafe.

Model positive behaviour

If you are a gamer yourself then lead by example and demonstrate healthy screen time habits and the balanced use of technology in your own life. Why not have a specific time of the week that incorporates family activities that do not involve screens, and do something together that builds strong bonds and supports healthy communication.

Encourage Positive Gaming Experiences

Introduce games that have an educational value to them or can promote problem-solving and creativity. The most successful way is to spend time gaming with the child or young person to better understand their interests and to provide guidance on appropriate behaviour and content. Many of us would not think twice about spending a few hours on a cold damp Sunday morning, cheering on a child who plays football for the local team, so a few hours a week taking an interest in what your child is doing online should not be much of a challenge!