Gaming is the activity of playing games on computers or some other form of electronic game. This could be on a games console, pc or mobile phone. Gaming is an extremely popular pastime of youths today, but when does gaming cease becoming a hobby and start becoming an addiction?
While playing computer games is an activity which a large number of young people take part in without any issues, an increasing number take it to extremes and develop an obsession with gaming. In fact, ‘Gaming disorder’ is now a recognised mental health disorder which may require treatment. Such recognition means that parents need to be extra diligent about their children’s gaming use. Also, as this addiction mainly affects young people, it needs to be taken more seriously.
Some of the most popular games today include Fortnite and Minecraft and millions participate in these games every day worldwide. Spending time playing these and other computer games occasionally or even regularly does not constitute having a gaming addiction. However, having a lack of control over the amount of time spent gaming can lead to problems and even addiction. Surveys show that school age children spend on average six hours a day in front of screens between games, and this includes watching television and using the internet. Studies suggest that for teens screen time is closer to ten hours per day. These numbers may seem quite improbable, but we must remember that screens of all shapes and forms are a huge part of everyday life, whether for school, work or leisure.
It is important to be aware of the signs of gaming addiction which include:
- Obsessively talking about and playing a certain game.
- Becoming argumentative or aggressive when asked to stop gaming.
- Signs that sleep or eating patterns are being disrupted due to time spent gaming.
- Physical symptoms such as headaches, neckaches or pain in hands and fingers.
There are things that parents or guardians can do if they are worried their child may be becoming addicted to gaming. For example, they could take an active interest in the games and content that their children are engaging in. They could also limit screen time and make sure that doing homework and chores takes first priority. Only when these tasks are completed should they be allowed to use their device. This should help prevent any problems with gaming.
It would also be good to encourage other interests and activities. For example, they could join a youth club or sports team. Further, getting out each day for some fresh air and physical activity would also limit excessive gaming time and will help keep things balanced.