Q: Should I permit my child to play video games? If so, which games should I allow and how can I maintain control?
Jim: Only you can decide if you want to allow your kids to participate in gaming. But if you do, be sure to stay actively involved in the buying process. Here are a few helpful game-purchasing guidelines:
— Always check ratings. This is a good start, but remember that the video-game industry rating system is not infallible when it comes to determining family-friendly content. No matter what the rating says, parents should research the material to ensure that the game is appropriate for their family.
— Read expert reviews and consult other parents. Take the time to research games that your child wants to play. Read online reviews. Focus on the Family’s Plugged In (pluggedin.com) offers helpful reviews of popular video games.
— Rent or borrow video games before buying. Before plunking down the money for a high-priced game, try finding it in the library, renting it from a game-rental outlet or even borrowing a game from a friend.
— Set time limits and gaming rules for your family. Mom and Dad should establish the standards.v Remember to be consistent about enforcing those rules. You might want to set parental controls if your gaming console or computer has that option.
— Try the game yourself or take time to watch your child play. Playing video games with your child, or at least watching your child play a game, gives you a firsthand knowledge of the content. Your child will be more likely to talk about the game with you if you’re aware of what it’s about.
Remember, the key to success in this area, as in so many others, is direct parental involvement.
Q: Over the past several weeks I’ve had serious difficulty sleeping. My insomnia seems to be rooted in anxiety, and it’s becoming worse: The more I worry about getting to sleep, the longer I lie awake. If anxiety is the issue, will medication help or will it simply mask the deeper problem?
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: Most of us suffer from occasional insomnia, but it sounds as if you’re dealing with a chronic problem. The first thing you need to do is make an appointment with your family physician in order to rule out potential physical causes. If your doctor gives you a clean bill of health, then it’s likely that your insomnia is being caused by anxiety or depression.
Anxiety-induced insomnia is fairly common. We all know what it’s like to lie awake for hours thinking about our worries and concerns. Depression is a more serious issue. It can cause changes in the chemistry of the brain, which can lead to trouble sleeping or another phenomenon called “early morning awakening,” a condition in which the individual wakes up in the wee hours of the morning and has difficulty falling asleep again.
Is it possible that your difficulty sleeping is related to anxious concerns about problems in other areas of your life? Are you worried about your job, a relationship or some troubling development in your family? If so, it might help to talk to someone about these issues, even if it’s just a family member or trusted friend.
If, on the other hand, you suspect that you may be suffering from clinical depression, it’s important to have your situation evaluated by a qualified physician. In that case, appropriate medication may be exactly what you need. Rather than “masking the deeper problem,” it can restore the chemical balance required to put you back on an even keel.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.