IS YOUR CHILD ADDICTED TO GAMING?
With Gaming Disorder being added to the 11th edition of WHO’s International Classification of Diseases, clarity of the addiction should be established. It is defined as “a pattern of gaming behavior characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.”
How common is it?
According to a 2009 study, 8.5% of teenage video gamers had behaviors that have been formally labeled as addiction in other contexts, including alcohol, narcotics, and gambling. Another study that looked into the prevalence rates and predictors of video game addiction in a sample of players found that there were 1.4 % addicted gamers, 7.3 % problem gamers, 3.9 % engaged gamers, and 87.4 % normal gamers. It has also been found that gaming’s negative impacts may be more pronounced in kids and teenagers with weak social skills, low self-esteem, boredom and loneliness, learning difficulties, or mood problems. Thus, we can conclude that it should indeed be taken seriously as a problem that can affect a majority of the youth.
How to know if my child is addicted?
With gaming accessible on all devices, it is important to draw the line between casual enjoyment and addiction to gaming. The following symptoms might help to identify if your child is at risk for Gaming Disorder.
- Needing more screen time over time to get the same level of enjoyment
If you find your child dedicating longer periods of time to video games as the days pass, they may be addicted. When someone continuously abuses something, their body becomes used to it, meaning it will stop having as much of an effect. To combat this, they increase the amount they use to give them the same level of satisfaction. This is known as tolerance, as seen in other addictive disorders.
- Displaying signs of irritability, anxiety, or anger when forced to stop playing
When video games are removed from their access, the child becomes emotional, showing negative ones like irritability or anger. Regardless of how long it was taken away from them, they still exhibit discomfort. This is a sign of them having an unhealthy relationship with video games, and is often linked to emotional withdrawal from an addiction.
- Continuing to play video games, even though it’s causing problems
The constant use of video games will cause numerous problems like poor performance in school, not doing household chores, excessive arguing with family, disturbance in sleep, being chronically tired, and so on. Most of the time, the child is aware of the negative impact it is having on their life but continues playing anyway.
- Lying to others about the extent of your use
Addicted children often lie about when they are playing video games. They access their systems behind their parents’ backs, knowing they are doing something wrong and will be reprimanded for it. This is a common sign of addiction, concealing the use of the object, knowing they are not allowed to use it.
- Giving up other activities such as hobbies or responsibilities
The addicted child may tend to be reducing participation in other social or recreational activities in favor of video games or screen time. They might stop going out with their friends or attending family movie night or playing football and others despite previously enjoying these events. They might still enjoy them, but they are so preoccupied with gaming, that they forgo them for their gaming systems.
How to prevent this?
The easiest way to regulate your child’s gaming time is to set certain rules that will provide structure to their screen time. Remember that there are benefits to playing video games, but also keep in mind that too much screen time, of any capacity, is not a good idea. Here are a few rules you can set.
- Set a screen time
The best thing you can do is provide a set time for gaming, which your child must follow. If your child tends to forgo these rules, consider installing software that sets time limits on their gaming time. Remember to be fair with your limits, if gaming is something your child really enjoys. However, do not be too lax if your child is already giving in to its negative consequences.
- Check ratings
If your child is playing a certain game, remember to check the particulars of it- overall rating, amount of violence, and age appropriateness. If you have an older child, you can consider giving them the benefit of doubt for checking these details themselves. You can also go online and check comments from other parents of gamers to see what they have observed.
- Encourage other activities
Make sure your child does not spend all their time in front of their gaming systems. Provide your child with other forms of entertainment, like calling their friends over for a board game night or something as simple as providing them with an interesting book. Remember to promote more offline events as entertainment, despite how appealing online activities may be.
- Taking away devices
Let this be a final consequence, in case your child does not adhere to your rules. It is best to not do this, as apart from upsetting your child, it might also enforce the idea of you being unreasonable, leading them to be more likely to not listen to you, despite how justified it is to you. Remember to consult a professional, like a therapist, in case your child uses gaming as a coping strategy for their condition.
- Create screen-free times
Implement periods in the day with the rule of no gaming, or any other screen. This can be during mealtimes, before bedtime, etc. Encourage engagement during mealtimes- have a conversation about their daily lives. Give them something to think about apart from their video games. For their bedtime, encourage them to do something else, that’s a little easy on their eyes, like reading a book.
Computers and the internet have been incorporated into our daily lives, with the growing need for technology. It is impossible to completely remove them from your child’s life, regardless of their negative impact. However you can definitely encourage a healthy relationship between your child and video games, so it does not become an integral part of them.