It is transcendent to do things you enjoy, but can you go too far with a hobby? And at what time does it convert into an addiction? That’s the question every parent wants to know about playing video games. According to the World Health Organization, video game addiction is a mental health disorder. Video games have now become an internationally recognized addiction. On May 25, 2019, the WHO officially voted to adopt the latest 11th edition of its International Classification of Diseases (ICD) to add an entry on “gaming disorder” as a behavioral addiction.
According to the WHO, “For gaming disorder to be diagnosed, the behavior pattern must be of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning and would normally have been evident for at least 12 months… people who partake in gaming should be alert to the amount of time they spend on gaming activities, particularly when it is to the exclusion of other daily activities.”
According to Pew Research Center, 8 in 10 teens say they have a game console at home or have access to one. 97 percent of teen boys and 83 percent of girls play games on some kind of digital device. According to the WHO, being a video game fan isn’t enough to be classified as having gaming disorder. The labeling standards don’t depend on a certain amount of hours spent playing. Rather, the classification of someone with an incapability to quit playing even though it meddles with other significant areas of one’s life, including family relations, school, work, and sleep.
Some teens can enjoy it for a few hours and then walk away slaked. Their consumption can be with friends or alone in their rooms, but their exam scores never fall, they have strong ties with their peers, they are usually friendly and peaceful around the house, and never miss extracurricular and outdoor activities. Yet other individuals become consumed and helpless to let go. Their personality is highly influenced, grades fall, and class attendance, sports, and extracurricular activities take a nosedive. Their relationships become frayed. Reports show that some of these individuals suffer from mental health issues.
In the United States, more than 166 million people play video games daily, which is considered three hours a week. Surprisingly, the average age of an American gamer is 35 years, where more than 72 percent of gamers are 18-years-old and older. The proportion of male video game players is more than their female counterparts.
Signs to Watch For
The American Psychiatric Association has classified several warning indicators to watch for when it comes to gaming addiction. We have further categorized these signs based on psychological, behavioral, and physical changes.
- Feelings of rage, frustration, and irritability when unable to play
- Thinking of previous gaming session or anticipation of the next activity
- Lying to family and friends regarding the amount of time spent playing
- Reduced interest in studies
- Withdrawal from others to spend more time gaming
- Distorted perception of time
- Justifying excessive use
- Blaming others
- Playing at the first available opportunity
- Unsatisfactory academic performance
- Decreased interest in studying and other activities
- Anger and belligerence towards those who attempt to limit access to the video games
- Irresponsible attitude
- Spending excessive time with video games
- Skipping meals or eating while playing
- Discussing video games all the time
- Spending a large amount of money on new games and gadgets
- A significant change in sleep patterns
- Eye strain or migraines due to intense concentration
- Carpel tunnel syndrome due to excessive use of a controller
- Poor personal hygiene
- Irregular eating habits
- Poor physical health or weight gain
Effects of Gaming Addiction
Gaming addiction is a compulsive mental health disorder that can wreck one’s life. Though most of the signs mentioned above have short-term impacts, these can lead to adverse long-term effects if not addressed timely. It is usual for a game addict to spend more than 10 hours a day gaming. Engaged in their gaming sessions, they commonly have poor diet plans. Majority of the gamers are found to be dehydrated and malnourished. While the short-term effect of this may include fatigue and hunger, but eventually, they will suffer from sleep deprivation, sleep disorders, and other diet-related health issues.
They usually miss out on family gatherings and outings with friends. In the long-term, they find themselves without any friends at all. They tend to be moody, irritable, depressed, and physically aggressive. Game addiction hurts the academic performance of children. They usually refuse to go to school or skip their homework. They may experience functional impairment in multiple areas of their lives. Game addicts also suffer from agoraphobia, which is a type of anxiety disorder that involves a fear of the crowd, bridges, or of being outside alone. In some cases, addicts report hikikomori, which is mostly used for adults who withdraw from social life.
Tips to Manage your Child’s gaming
Of course, not every individual who plays games a lot has a problem with it. Billions of people play video games, and the majority of them don’t have an addiction. The WHO estimates show that the proportion of those who struggle with gaming addiction is 3-4 percent. The difference between fun activity and addiction is based on the influence this activity is having in your life.
As a parent, you can take certain actions to minimize the negative impact of video games on kids to mitigate the likelihood of addiction.
- Research to explore the content and rating of the video games your kids are playing.
- Encourage sports and other physical activities. Be a role model and limit your online activities too.
- Do not install gaming equipment in your child’s bedroom.
- Set time limits to manage how long and how often your kid can play the games.
- Supervise your kid’s media consumption from video games.
- Talk to your kids about what they enjoy about gaming and why they want to play games frequently. Talk to them about how you are worried about the adverse impacts of gaming.
- When calling your kid off their game, give them time to finish their game and then shift them to other interactive activities.
- Taking away their gaming console isn’t going to work. Instead, talk to your kid and set time limits. Allocate a reasonable amount of time every day. Gradually, you can reduce their paly time.
- If you think your efforts are not working, take your child to a therapist. Counseling will help them.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) focuses on transforming the kid’s thoughts and feelings. It is one of the most commonly recommended therapy for gaming addiction.
With the latest advancement in gaming consoles, it has become difficult for parents to lead their kids away from developing the habit of gaming. The best thing you could do is to be a proactive parent in your child’s activities. Be involved and explore the gaming world together. Be a role model to show your kids how to keep a balance between the virtual and the real world.