Addiction can mean something very scary to parents and carers. When parents see that their child won’t get off the tablet, gaming console or computer when called, they may bemoan the fact that their child is “addicted” when they actually mean that their child is “overusing online games.” In situations like this, screen balance and perhaps even a digital detox may be recommended.
With the recent inclusion of ‘gaming disorder’ in the WHO’s International Classification of Diseases, parents need to understand what is gaming disorder and how they can prevent their children from developing this ‘addiction.’
The clinical definition of gaming addiction
Addiction in clinical terms is a pathological state that is diagnosed under certain criteria.
For example, gaming disorder is defined “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.” It is important to note that this behaviour pattern has lasted at least 12 months and has resulted in difficulties with family, friends, socializing, education and other areas of functioning.
Questions to ask to determine if they have the condition
Based on guidelines established by child protection experts, academics and researchers at EU Kids Online, parents should not automatically assume that their child’s use of digital media is problematic, but they should ask themselves:
– Is my child physically healthy and sleeping enough?
– Is my child connecting socially with family and friends (in any form)?
– Is my child engaged with and achieving in school?
– Is my child pursuing interests and hobbies (in any form)?
– Is my child having fun and learning in their use of digital media?
Steps to take to deal with it
If the answers are yes, then parents consider whether their fears over digital media use are well-founded. If the answers are no, then “these particular parents and children may need to put in place regulations and restrictions in order to address problematic use.”
In other words, parents and carers can tackle the overuse of online games by taking steps to achieve balance in their homes:
establish screen balance guidelines
find creative ways to allow games and tech time, balanced with outdoor or creative non-tech activities
make sure that games are age-appropriate and content-appropriate
notice how your children interact with their devices and games (aggressive, irritable, may mean that less screen time is needed)
A final point for parents to remember is that studies suggest that gaming disorder affects only a small proportion of people engaged in online gaming. Don’t panic. Parent.