If your kids spend oodles of time on games like "Fortnite" or "World of Warcraft," they're not alone - a whopping 90 percent of kids in the United States play video games. But if your child seems unable to do anything else and is even willing to forgo beloved activities to continue gaming, it might be a gaming addiction. "Can a person become addicted to video games?" has been the subject of debate for as long as video games have been around.
Recently, the World Health Organization answered "Yes" and officially declared gaming disorder a mental health condition. But being a "gamer" doesn't automatically mean your child is addicted to video games. Learn how to spot the signs of gaming disorder, and what to do if you’re concerned about the amount of time your teen or child spends playing video games.
What Are The Signs Of Video Game Addiction?
Gaming disorder is a pattern of behavior that negatively impacts a person's life. People with this mental illness prioritize playing video games over everything else. A teen with gaming disorder starts to lose interest in other activities, relationships and even essentials like eating and sleeping. Even worse is when gaming causes repercussions like losing friends, receiving poor grades in school or getting in trouble at home, and the child continues the same behavior.
If your child experiences five or more of the following signs within a 12-month period, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends you talk to your child's doctor, as that may indicate a gaming disorder diagnosis:
- Consumed with thoughts about playing video games; gaming becomes the primary activity in daily life
- Irritable, anxious or sad when gaming is taken away
- Spending increasing amounts of time gaming
- Unable to stop or reduce play time
- Losing interest in previously enjoyable activities other than gaming
- Continuing gaming despite negative consequences
- Lying to others about time spent gaming
- Using game playing to escape feelings of anxiety, helplessness or guilt
- Willing to lose something significant, like a relationship, job, educational or career opportunity, to continue gaming
What Should You Do If Gaming Has Gotten Out Of Hand?
Only a small percentage of kids will develop gaming disorder – research suggests that up to about 8 percent of youth may be affected. However, the general problem of "too much screen time" concerns many parents. If you'd like to scale back your child's game time, consider the following:
Set usage limits
Decide how often and when your child will have access to gaming. For example, you may limit it to only the weekends or to one hour a day. Consider installing an app that can monitor your child's gaming time and automatically shuts off devices after a certain time. Take gaming away Another option to reduce your child's gaming time is to eliminate apps altogether. You can remove gaming consoles and uninstall games from your child's devices. Or try an app that monitors your child's activities on phones, tablets and computers.
Encourage real-life activities
Help your child remember all the fun activities there are to do without video games. Ask which sport, club or extracurricular class your child wants to sign up for, or perhaps get a pool membership for the whole family to use. You can also buy some board games and invite friends over for a game night. Get your kids involved in deciding on the games and activities – the goal is to revive interest in hobbies that they previously enjoyed. If you're concerned your child may have gaming disorder, consult with your child's pediatrician who can help assess the situation and refer you to a behavioral health expert.