Online games can be good for kids. However, like with everything online, they also come with risks. While many games can improve your child’s problem-solving, coordination, multi-tasking, and social skills as they interact with other players, it’s also important to know what could go wrong and their negative impact on your child.
So, here’s what you need to know about the dangers of gaming addiction.
What is Gaming Addiction?
Gaming addiction refers to the uncontrolled or compulsive use of video games to the extent that it can pose problems in other aspects of a child’s life, such as school and relationships. It’s a form of internet addiction and has become an increasing concern for many parents.
Gaming addiction can encompass gaming on the internet or any electronic device. It also affects many adults. Most people who have significant gaming issues play on the internet.
Researchers are still debating whether gaming addiction is a mental illness or addiction. Many researchers consider it a behavioral addiction similar to a gambling disorder, where players are addicted to the thrill of winning, making them unable to stop.
Other researchers believe gaming addiction is not similar to gambling addiction since gaming addiction does not always involve material or financial losses. Furthermore, winning a video game requires sharp reflexes and cognitive skills, while in gambling, winning is a matter of luck.
Regardless of the debate, experts believe that any habit or activity that becomes all-consuming and negatively affects your daily functioning can have significant physical, social, and mental health issues. Parents should immediately seek medical help if they believe their kids’ gaming habits are taking over their lives.
Signs and Symptoms of Gaming Addiction
Just because a child plays a lot does not always signify gaming addiction. Some kids are only enthusiastic about video games and prefer to spend their free time indulging in their favourite games. However, if it causes distress to your kids and interferes with their ability to function, it becomes an addiction. Here are some of the signs and symptoms to watch out for.
- Their minds are always occupied by gaming.
- They feel bad if they cannot play.
- Need to spend more and more time playing to feel good about themselves.
- Unable to limit gaming and have no courage to quit.
- Unable to do other things they once like.
- Having issues at school because of spending too much time gaming.
- Continues to play despite some problems.
- Lying to parents about how much time they spend playing.
- Turning to games to improve mood and feel better.
Impact on Mental Health
Like any addiction, excessive gaming can have devastating effects on mental health. While playing video games in moderation is not bad, too much of it can negatively affect a child’s mental health.
A study at Oxford University shows that gaming in moderation may improve mental well-being. Some people might be surprised by the findings of this study, especially since many prior studies linked gaming to mental health issues.
However, it’s worth noting that it’s an isolated study involving gamers playing a prosocial game called Animal Crossing nonstop for four hours a day. The gaming habits of those addicted to gaming can vary significantly. Others may play more addictive games that are also more toxic to mental health, and several gamers spend over four hours each day playing.
The more time you spend playing, the more you will end up neglecting some other aspects of your life, which can also mean that your mental health will suffer even more. In addition, several anecdotal stories can support the negative impact of excessive gaming on mental health.
Depression is one of the most common mental health issues of gaming addiction. Studies show that almost 90% of those who spend excessive time playing are diagnosed with depression while also being addicted to gaming.
Failing to control your kids’ gaming habits could end up in them developing depression. As they play video games more and more, they will start to neglect some other aspects of their lives, such as not having as many social relationships and ignoring healthy habits. You can also protect your kids by learning about safeguarding through training and other useful resources online.
Prevention and Intervention Strategies
You should immediately seek intervention from mental health professionals if gaming is ruining your child’s life. But here are some prevention and intervention strategies you can do.
- Let your kids understand the reason you need to control their gaming habits. Clearly explain how their gaming has gotten out of hand and why you are concerned.
- Set a limit on your child’s gaming habits. For instance, you can strictly impose an hour of gaming during school days or up to a maximum of three hours of gaming during the weekends.
- Be firm with your kids when enforcing limits. Implement consequences if they will not adhere to the agreed time limits.
- Consider using gaming as a reward or motivation. For instance, you can impose your child’s gaming time to be dependent on other tasks they perform, such as getting good grades or performing household chores.
- Try to introduce other fun activities to your kids and be part of it. For instance, you can organise game nights for everyone with food and drinks.
Building Healthy Gaming Habits
As mentioned, playing video games should be fine. It’s when your child spends too much time on these games that it can become an addiction. You don’t need to prevent your child from playing. Instead, help your child to achieve healthy or positive gaming. A healthy game habit is balancing school and family life with gaming.
Constant gaming follows a predictable pattern called habit. When a child plays video games they love, they can get hooked by the fun, thrill, challenges, and social aspect of playing with others. Video games can negatively affect a young person’s brain, leaving your child craving more. That’s when the harm can occur.
But with healthy gaming, it can be a regular part of your child’s life. Those with healthy gaming habits still make time to enjoy other things aside from gaming. They also manage to go to school, do their homework, and perform household chores.