Where is the line?
Parenting is filled with all kinds of challenges. Some, such as setting bedtimes and convincing kids to eat vegetables, are expected. Others, such as knowing the line for when your child is gaming too much are new challenges.
According to the creators of Fortnite, 40 million people log on to play the game each month. Fortnite is just one of 200+ games today. You are not alone if you think your child is gaming too much. In fact, you may be one of 16 million parents who think that, and are RIGHT.
The World Health Organization (WHO) classified Internet Gaming Disorder (IGD) as its own mental health disorder in 2018. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has deemed the disorder as a “condition for further study.” Thus, resources for gaming addiction are rather scarce.
The bottom line is: if it causes a problem, it is a problem.
Younger gamers may not realize that their gaming habits now are setting them up for failure later. After all, their friends play too. They are passionate about gaming and see it as a fun activity in their free time. They may see it as intellectual stimulation or a sense of community.
However, gaming can quickly become a problem for children as gaming tops 20 hours/week. Consequences typically include an increase in moodiness/irritability, disrupted sleep patterns and, most devastatingly, disengagement from friends and activities that used to be fun.
For a clinical diagnosis of video game addiction, doctors require 12 months of symptoms. Your child may find out about their addiction in their junior year of high school, and by then it might be too late to start treatment in time for college applications.
Whether or not your child is “addicted” is ultimately not about the number of hours spent playing or whether the gamer meets an academic definition. The point at which gaming interferes with real life is the point at which we would say it is becoming problematic:
- Grades are falling
- Relationships are dissolving
- Ambition is fading
- Physical and/or mental health is deteriorating
- Significant increase in moodiness, irritability and/or distractibility when not gaming
Gaming can have many positive effects.
There are certainly benefits to playing video games, such as improving spatial skills, which help with academics such as math. Gaming also provides a place for kids to meet friends and form meaningful connections with others.
For many gamers in middle or high school, video games are seen as a superior alternative to mindless TV, social media or drugs/alcohol. They have a point! Games provide intellectual stimulation, fundamentals in strategic thinking, and leadership skills.
Think analytically about “too much.”
Do you remember the last time you loved a book or a TV show? What about a team? Could someone have said you spent too much time watching or reading that? What would have made them say that? It usually stems from an idea that your time could have been spent better.
For parents, it’s important to shift from an annoyed point of view (“turn that *&%$ computer off right now!”) to an analytical point of view. Ask exactly how your child’s grades, health or relationships are impacted by games. Is it lack of sleep? Is it that other responsibilities are being neglected? Or, is it bigger than that?
Two steps you can take TODAY.
- 1. Put the computer in a public space in the house.
- 2. Understand what types of games your kid likes to play and why. See if there are real-world activities that fulfill the same thing the games do.
The sooner you take these steps, the better for setting up healthy gaming habits. If you feel like you need more help, we’ve created a step-by-step guide for parents to build healthy gaming habits.