By Michael Bamidele
Is your child spending hours playing video games and not enough time to do other things such as homework, chores or spending time with family and friends? Is your kid more in tune with the gaming world than with real life?
Every parent wants the best for their child, which is why we dote on them, care for their needs and also shower them with toys, treats, trips to fun places and of course, video games.
However, when the passion for playing games takes the course of obsession, it can be quite worrisome. Games become “addictive” because it triggers the brain’s reward system and shapes a child’s behaviour. Studies made by California State University found that video games can have a similar effect on children’s brains as drug abuse or alcoholism.
The World Health Organisation’s International Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD) classified “Gaming disorder” as a disease. According to ICD, gaming disorder is characterised by 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 or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.
Although the ICD’s classification of gaming disorder as a disease is still debated by some experts, it is nevertheless a cause of worry when your child becomes obsessed with gaming. Gaming disorder isn’t defined by gaming too much, or the number of hours played, but rather it is when gaming interferes with a person’s daily life. Oh, it can affect adults too.
Here are some symptoms of addictive gaming:
Prioritising gaming to the extent that it takes precedence over other activities and interests.
Continuing to game despite negative effects on work, school, family life, health, hygiene and social relationships.
Obsessive behaviour. Always preoccupied with getting back to the game and displaying irritable, restless and aggressive behaviour when not playing.
Lack of sleep. Children who play excessively do so up to the wee hours of the morning. This results in sleep deprivation, which is more harmful to minds that are still developing. When they have school the next day, it affects their attention and learning. Their lack of sleep also causes them to have headaches and feel fatigued throughout the day.
Lack of physical exercise. Kids who play excessively exercise less, if at all.
If you notice that your child is becoming obsessed with gaming, here are some tips on how to approach healthy gaming:
Encourage sporting and physical activity such as biking or running to less physical activities like reading, learning to play an instrument, coding, or going out with friends. This can increase blood levels of serotonin and have a positive effect on mood and symptoms of problematic gaming,
Talk to your child about what they enjoy about gaming and why they want to game regularly. Their answer will help you identify if there are other issues they may be experiencing and use gaming as an escape.
Make game time a reward. Make your child’s gaming time contingent to actually fulfilling or failing a goal. For example, you can allow your child to play on school days if he maintains a certain grade, but if not, he can only play on weekends. Or allow your child to play only if he has done his chores.
When you call your child off their game, ensure they have an activity to shift to, such as a family outing or dinner.
When calling your child off a game, give them time to finish the game. Continuously being asked to get off mid-game can be frustrating and lead to arguments. Ask them how much longer they will need to end the game and then ensure they get off when the game is over.
In extreme cases, consult a therapist or paediatrician to cure your child’s “addiction” to video games. Intervene early and decisively.