All young people love playing games. As children grow and develop, games help children interact with others and assist them in developing communication skills. Another benefit of game playing is that it is a great way to relax after a busy day. Games are made to be enjoyed, and this includes computer games and online video games. However, If your child spends long hours playing video games each day, and if they neglect other activities in favour of gaming, there may be a problem.
Gaming addiction has officially been recognised by the World Health Organisation as a mental health condition. Gaming can become an addiction when a young person puts gaming before all other things, including family and school. In extreme cases a gamer may forget to wash, eat or sleep because they are completely obsessed with gaming.
There are other worrying aspects of video game addiction which are centred around in-game purchases and random rewards. These practices include token wagering, loot boxes and social casino spending. Many of these procedures are linked to problem gambling because placing bets is normalised through gaming. So, how can a parent or carer tell if a young person is addicted to gaming?
Some of the symptoms of gaming addiction among children include:
- Putting gaming before school, hobbies, meals or time with family — school grades will suffer and relationships with friends and family will begin to deteriorate.
- Becoming totally obsessed with their last or next game — it will be all they think or talk about and gaming becomes a major part of their life.
- Losing control over gaming — in other words having no control over whether they play or not — they may have a strong urge to play even when they need to eat or sleep.
- Becoming irritable and short-tempered — they exhibit mood swings and disappointment after a game.
- Lying to loved ones — when questioned they lie to family and friends about their gaming activities.
So what can parents or carers do if they suspect their child is addicted to video games? The following suggestions may help:
- Encourage them to take part in other activities such as sport or athletics. Physical exercise can increase serotonin levels in the brain which can boost their mood and improve their sleep and self-esteem.
- Take part in their gaming world — get involved and play an active role in their games which will help keep their gaming safe and sensible.
- Set healthy limits for the amount of time they can play online. Be consistent — if you say they can play for an hour, you must stick to it — no more and no less!
- Replace gaming with enjoyable family activities such as family outings or meals out.
- Do not ask them to stop playing mid-game. Be polite and respectful and allow them to finish their game — this will go a long way towards ensuring they cooperate because they will realise you are being reasonable and fair.
Finally, remember that help is available to treat video game addiction. This may involve CBT sessions as well as individual and family therapy sessions. This will help everyone explore and address potential issues in the gamer’s family which may be contributing to the addiction. Speak to your GP and ask to be referred to an addiction counsellor who can provide details of the support available.
Gaming Issues Topics for Schools
- Gaming Addiction Among Children
- Gaming Obsession
- In-game Purchases
- Playing Safely
Gaming Support for Schools
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