Summer is here and it’s a sunny day outside, but you just can’t seem to drag your child away from playing video games. You feel that your child would rather play the computer rather than play outside — or anything else for that matter. Should you be worried?
While video games can help develop useful reasoning and memory skills through interactive activities, they also provide incentives to keep users playing which leads some to develop a gaming addiction.
What Is Video Game Addiction?
A gaming addiction occurs when computer games take precedence over any other activity. A preoccupation with gaming includes excessive use, neglecting work (or homework), exhibiting a lack of control, neglecting social life and not being able to stop gaming despite knowing that it is causing problems.
Video game addition can be broken down into four areas: behavioural, physical, emotional and interpersonal. Not all kids have problems in all four areas. Love your children as strongly as you possibly can, but don’t love them too much that you assume they’re always doing the right thing. Keep an eye on their gaming and how it might be affecting them.
Should You Be Concerned?
Just because your child plays computer games sometimes doesn’t mean you need to worry. Some gaming is a normal behaviour and if your child engages in activities besides games, has healthy sleeping and eating habits, and has positive interactions with you and the family, they are probably keeping the gaming in check.
How Much Is Too Much?
When children play more than five hours a day, they could be addicted. One problem computer games can have for developing brains is that they can cause the user to not interact with others in real life. Computer games train the brain to ‘tune out’ other stimuli and variables by forcing the game activity into the foreground and push everything else, including people and relationships, into the background. This “tuning out,” while probably OK in small doses, is not ideal for kids.
What Are Signs Your Child Might Be Addicted?
These include increased intensity with the games, inability to stop playing, hostility or frustration when not playing, and loss of interest in other hobbies.
These can include not sleeping well, not taking showers or caring about hygiene, and experiencing chronic back or hand and wrist pain.
A common one is depression, which often manifests as sulking for girls and anxiety for boys. The kids are happy when they’re gaming, but irritable when they’re not.
These may include poor communication skills, not making eye contact, making more online friendships than real life ones and withdrawing from the family.
How Can You Best Regulate Your Kid’s Gaming?
Parents should keep the computer out of the bedroom and check the ratings of the computer games as they are rated for difficulty and violence
Modeling suitable behavior is also important, such as a having a family “tech-free Tuesdays” at home, where the whole family tosses their devices in a basket. This demonstrates how people balance their lives by making time to connect with others. If your child is bored, help them to find other fun things to do.
If you’re still concerned about your child’s possible gaming overuse, check in with their pediatrician.