The World Health Organization (WHO) has officially recognized “gaming disorder” as a real condition. How do you know if your child’s relationship with video games is a healthy hobby or an unhealthy addiction?
Gaming Disorder Defined
The World Health Organization defines gaming disorder as “as a pattern of gaming behavior (“digital-gaming” or “video-gaming”) characterized 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.”
While this may sound familiar to many parents, it’s more severe than just your child’s reluctance to turn off their device in the middle of a game. This disorder is more severe and affects a child’s everyday life. The WHO notes that while this is a very real condition, studies suggest it only affects a small percentage of people.
Get Hands-On with Your Child’s Gaming
Nicole Dreiske, a children’s media expert and the author of The Upside of Digital Devices: How to Make Your Child More Screen Smart, Literate, and Emotionally Intelligent , tells Parentology, the best way to ensure your child has a healthy relationship with gaming and technology is to help create one.
“Especially when children are younger, spend some time together with them while using technology,” Dreiske says. “Make sure you talk and interact around screens and other devices. Comment on things you notice on devices, ask questions and draw children into dialog. Doing this for 15 minutes twice a week will make a huge difference.”
Dreiske says it’s important to set expectations and boundaries when introducing technology to your children. Setting time limits and enforcing them whether your child is on a tablet, gaming system or AI is key.
“As with any new experience, you need to set limits and communicate positive expectations for children’s behavior before powering up those devices.”
Be Aware of Certain Signs
How do you know if your child is in danger of having a more serious issue with video games? Dreiske says it’s not as hard as you think.
“Luckily, the signs are easy to detect,” she notes. “If younger children have meltdowns when you limit, take away a gaming console, tablet or phone, it’s time for a tech time-out.”
Dreiske continues, “For older children, sleeplessness, increased irritability, loss of interest in sports or other cherished activities are clear indicators of unhealthy fixations with tech.”
If your child displays behaviors that are concerning to you when you ask them to part from their games, it may be time to seek professional help.
Video games are developed to be exciting and entertaining, especially to younger players. Something at which the gaming industry excels — it’s estimated to reach $90 billion dollars in revenue next year. Parents shouldn’t be concerned if their child is one of those active and excited young players. However, if gaming has become an unhealthy part of your child’s life, it could be time to unplug.