Parenting is filled with all kinds of challenges. Some, such as setting bedtimes and convincing kids to eat vegetables, are expected. Others, such as over-indulging in video games, may come as a surprise.
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’re not alone if you think your child is gaming too much. In fact, you’re one of 8 million parents.
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.
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. 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.
Kids may not realize that their gaming habits are a problem. After all, their friends game 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.
Whether or not your child is “addicted” to video games should not determine if they cut down on screen time or not. That decision should be up to parents who know their kids. 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.
Two actions you can take TODAY:
- Put the computer in a public space in the house.
- Understand what types of games your kid likes to play and why. See if there are real-world activities that can be good substitutes.
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 intervention for parents.