It’s no secret that professionals across the healthcare and technology industries have been scratching their heads about online gaming for years. More and more, professionals – particularly in the healthcare sector – have developed a growing concern about just how impactful online gaming can be – especially for the smartphone generation.
For modern youth who spend an increasing amount of time plugged into laptops and smartphones, professionals worry that the allure of online —an addiction that results in irrational cravings and an uncontrollable need to keep playing.
There’s no doubt that just like with any other addiction, this type of compulsive online game use can have serious detrimental consequences in the real lives of over-users. A strong compulsion for internet games can have negative impacts on youth relationships, schooling, and employment, in addition to their physical and mental health. That’s why, healthcare professionals across the globe are emphasizing the need to recognize over-gaming for what it is – a behavioral addiction.
Recently, the announced that ‘gaming disorder’ will be officially recognized under their International Classification of Diseases. This is an incredibly significant move by the WHO and the formal classification will greatly improve awareness and understanding of the disorder. Further, with a formal classification, impacted youth and families will have more options for treatment, help, and funding.
The official WHO defines online gaming addiction as such:
“…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 of escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.”
Thanks to this informed decision by the WHO, families looking for more serious and dynamic treatment options will have global support behind them. This means the opening up of spots for gaming addicts at inpatient clinics and long-term rehabilitation facilities.
Understandably, the WHO announcement has many parents giving a second thought about their own children’s online habits. Young kids play video games – this is not a new phenomenon and games are not inherently dangerous to kids. However, there are key to be on the lookout for if you’re concerned your child’s gaming borders on over-use or addiction.
1. Preoccupation & Compulsion
Does your child spend all their time playing a specific game or set of games? Do they have a hard time talking about anything else when they are offline? If your child seems to have a compulsive need to log on and play or if they can’t seem to think or talk about anything else, gaming addiction could be present.
2. Over Spending Time & Money
Are you constantly catching your child red-eyed and up way past a normal bedtime, playing an online game? Does your child have a habit of overspending their money or yours on video-game related purchases? If all your child’s time and money are being directed toward their game use, they could be suffering from gaming addiction.
3. Erratic Emotions
Does your child get irrationally emotional when they are unable to access or play their game? Do they get very defensive when you question them about their game use? Does your child have strong emotional reactions when they aren’t doing well in their game? If you notice that your child’s emotions are hard to regulate and seem to spike and drop based on gaming outcomes, it may be time to get professional help.
4. Neglecting Other Areas of Life
Has your child recently seen their grades drop? Does your child often ask to stay home sick from school just to spend the day playing games? Does your child neglect their part-time job, friendships, or extra-curricular activities in order to game? If so, your child is likely struggling with a serious addiction to gaming.
A Playbook for Parents: How to Curb the Risk of Gaming Addiction in Your Kids
All of this information is understandably worrisome for parents – especially as the younger generations become more and more reliant on technology for occupation and entertainment. That’s why, no matter how frightening gaming addiction seems, there are always for parents and kids to rely on, in hopes of stopping addiction in its tracks.
1. Recognize the Cravings
First things first, there has to be an acknowledgment of a problem. Understanding that your child has compulsive cravings for a game will help remind both you and them that this is a disorder. Recognize when the cravings to play happen and try to get to the root cause.
2. Get Active, Get Outside, Reconnect with Friends
Encourage your child to physically move their body. Exercise or team sports are a great way to get positive endorphins pumping. Encourage your child to spend time with friends, go outside, and become more active. This can be a great first step in breaking the cycle of addictive behavior.
3. Be Aware of Viral Games
For today’s social media generation, a new game can go viral in no time at all. This is a huge trigger for kids who have a tendency to get addicted quickly. With all their friends talking about how awesome a new game is, kids will want to see what all the hype is about. Knowing what to look for is half the battle, so make sure to keep an eye on new games that are sweeping kids up in a viral tornado.
4. Be Firm
No one likes giving tough love – especially when we know our kids are struggling. But unfortunately, tough love will be required in the fight against gaming addiction. There will be times when your child is begging you to play for just one more hour. They may get nasty and try to disobey your rules. Do your best to remain firm.
5. Enlist Tech Help
In the struggle to face gaming addiction head-on, it may be helpful to install some kind of parental controls, making it harder for your kids to spend unattended time online. There are various tools available to block sites and monitor your children’s internet use so you can make sure their habits aren’t out of control.