Gaming on a computer or device is a wildly popular pastime for kids in Australia. In fact, 94 per cent of children between 6 and 15 play games and, while girls are fast gaining on them, gaming still remains more popular with boys.

It seems that although (almost) everybody’s doing it, a lot of parents feel unsure about how to negotiate gaming in their households. School holidays certainly bring the issue to the fore, as many families resort to the digital babysitter, and finding a balance between Minecraft and the rest of life can feel like a full-time job.

Recently I’ve been contacted by several mums, in particular mums of boys, who say they have strict rules about time limits and content. However, they ask, “Am I being paranoid or just plain unreasonable to want to limit the time my boys spend gaming, especially violent games?”

Boys can become very angry towards their parents when they have their gaming time limited. My sons behaved in similar ways around Nintendo when they were young, and they weren’t happy that I banned access until the weekend.

I also monitored to keep them away from games that used senseless violence and other morally unsavoury activities like stealing, verbal abuse or destruction of property. Later they told me they would play these games at other people’s houses anyway, but at least at home they had a healthy balance.

Boys tend to display a few characteristics that can lead them to being competitive, more physical, more impulsive and more prone to hunting dopamine, which is the fun, focused, engaged neuro-transmitter, the ‘feel good’ brain chemical.

The reasons for this are varied, but basically our boys are socialised into behaving this way; perhaps that’s because this expectation goes all the way back to a time when the male role was to protect and hunt for food. Genetics, hormones, brain development, cultural expectations, the way boys are treated compared to girls; each of these factors come into play.

A research paper put together by the Young and Well CRC shows general differences in the types of games girls and boys choose: “Girls expressed a preference for puzzle, role play, and platform games, whereas boys preferred games which involved action such as racing games, sports games, and beat and shoot ’em ups.”

Boys are potentially more at risk of becoming addicted to gaming because playing triggers that ‘competitive’ reward system in the brain by releasing ‘squirts’ of dopamine as they pit themselves against adversaries — something they seem generally driven to do, and something their game preferences reflect.

– Maggie Dent

Read More: Boys and Gaming: Finding the Balance

Photo source –