Gaming is a popular hobby and a way for children and adults to de-stress and socially connect with others. It is even used for education. However, too much gaming can also have harmful consequences. The World Health Organization defines a gaming disorder as “a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behavior, which may be online or offline, manifested by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.” In other words, If gaming interferes with and negatively impacts your relationships, job, schoolwork, finances, and other daily activities, it is a problem. Remember: the key to gaming is moderation.
What You Should Know
Billions of people play video games and the majority of them do not have a gaming addiction. The World Health Organization estimates that about 3-4% of those who play video games have an addiction. However, video games are designed to be addictive and keep players hooked. The more people gaming companies can get hooked on their games, the more money they will make.
Video games are extremely stimulating and provide players with a high level of dopamine. This can cause players to live in a world where they expect instant gratification. Players use games as a way to escape from the real world and they are so interactive that it is easy to play for hours without even noticing. A few things to look out for are manipulative game design features like in-app purchases, microtransactions, and loot boxes, which are often targeted towards the most vulnerable– kids. Some governments consider these a form of gambling and have declared them illegal.
A gaming disorder is a compulsive mental health disorder that can cause severe damage to a person’s life. People addicted to video games may suffer from sleep deprivation since it is not uncommon for them to spend 10 plus hours gaming, usually at night. They may also become dehydrated and malnourished. Many gamers are known to have poor diets including many energy drinks full of caffeine and sugar. They may be moody, irritable, depressed, physically aggressive, and refuse to go to school or work due to gaming. Some gaming addicts can also become withdrawn from their social lives or develop agoraphobia, which is an anxiety disorder in which they fear leaving the house.
Improved cognitive functions
Problem-solving skills and the use of logic
Faster and more accurate decision-making
Improved eye for details
Social activity and teamwork
Video games can make you addicted
Elevated risk of aggression
Games replace real-world problems
Some games promote gambling
Decreased physical and mental health
Lack of focus and concentration
Signs of A Gaming Disorder
From Game Quitters
Preoccupation with video games. The individual thinks about previous gaming activity or anticipates playing the next game; Gaming becomes the dominant activity in daily life.
Withdrawal symptoms when gaming is taken away. These symptoms are typically described as irritability, anxiety, boredom, cravings, or sadness.
Tolerance – the need to spend increasing amounts of time engaged in video games. This may be motivated by a need for the completion of increasingly intricate, time-consuming, or difficult goals to achieve satisfaction and/or reduce fears of missing out.
Unsuccessful attempts to control participation in video games.
Loss of interest in previous hobbies and entertainment as a result of, and with the exception of, video games.
Continued excessive use of games despite knowledge of psychosocial problems. The individual continues to play despite a negative impact.
Has deceived family members, therapists, or others regarding their gaming.
Use of video games to escape or relieve a negative mood (e.g., feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety).
Has jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, job, educational, or career opportunity because of participation in video games.
If you meet five (or more) of the following warning signs in a 12-month period, you may have an addiction and should seek the help of a professional immediately.
What Parents Can Do
Find Replacement Activities: Replacement activities are key in reducing screen time and gaming. Start researching recreational sports, activities, and other events in your community. Try this hobby-finding tool for ideas.
Create a Media Plan: Allow your kids to schedule their gaming around school, homework, and other activities. This ensures that they get their other responsibilities done before gaming. If you need help creating one, check this program out.
Be clear about rules, expectations, and consequences: Set boundaries with your kids involving gaming, but don’t overdo it. Smaller constantly enforced consequences work better than large one-time consequences that do not get enforced.
If you are concerned about your gaming take this short quiz.
If you are concerned about a loved one’s gaming take this short quiz.
Try a 90-day gaming detox
Check out Game Quitters Community Forum
Join Game Quitters Parent Support Group