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Gaming Addiction: A Wake-Up Call for All Parents

by InnerHour on Fri, 23 Sep 2016
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Online gaming has been exponentially growing amongst adolescents. Ranging from virtual reality to basic puzzles, there is a whole plethora of games available online. Initial engagement in gaming as a source of distraction or boredom relief can sometimes change to gaming addiction.

In this two part series on mobile phone addiction and online gaming addiction, Dr. van Zwanenberg, a specialist in Children’s mental health answers some very critical questions raised by InnerHour’s parent clients. Here she responds to questions on gaming addiction. This post on gaming addiction is the second of the two part series of Questions and Answers with her. 

Q. How can I determine if my child is addicted to gaming?

If your child is doing the following it may be signs of gaming addiction:

  • Gaming rather than socialising with friends
  • Playing games for more than 6 hours per week
  • Choosing gaming over any other activity
  • Getting agitated if there is a new game they have not got if they cannot progress on a game
  • Getting aggressive when you ask them to stop gaming
  • Being irritable when not gaming
  • Needing to spend more and more time gaming

Q. My 8 year old son has ADHD and can barely sustain his attention. However, when given an ipad to play with, he can sustain his attention for a sufficiently long time. Why is that?

Interestingly, the internet can mimic ADHD and may exacerbate ADHD in those who have it.

People with ADHD like novelty and they struggle to find this in everyday life but they find it when gaming and this triggers the reward centre in their brain, making them want more. Gaming takes away effortful attention- something that people with ADHD need to practice. The game directs them regarding what they need to pay attention to, hence they find this easier.

Q. My son spends a lot of time playing games on his phone or laptop and is unaware of his surroundings. This worries me. Can this be a problem?

Nearly 23% of young people aged 8-18 report that they feel “addicted to video games” (roughly 31% of males, 13% of females.) These are the results of a new study of 1,178 U.S. children and teens conducted by Harris Interactive (2007) that documents a national prevalence rate of pathological video game use.

If your child is showing signs of  unhealthy development  neglect of education,  dysfunctional family functioning or friendships due to use of gadgets, you are right to be concerned.

I would advise that as parents you work together on this and are consistent in your approach to tackle it.  Be honest with your child about your concerns but do not blame them. Ask them to keep a record of what they are doing on their gadget and for how long so you can sit with them and work out how this can be gradually reduced.

Set reasonable boundaries that are flexible in the sense that they can be discussed and negotiated wherever possible. If  your children  are allowed some involvement in the process of setting boundaries, they are more likely to adhere to them.

Q. How common is gaming addiction in children and adolescents? Can it be treated?

Forty-one percent of people who play online video games admitted that they play computer games in order to escape from the real world. The researchers classified seven percent of these gamers as “dependent” (Hussain, 2009).

Males are more prone to video game addiction than females.

It’s been suggested that between five and ten per cent of the 46.6 million web users in Britain may be addicts.

Addictions can be treated but the success depends on the person themselves- their motivation to change. Individualised treatment by a professional with qualifications and experience treating addictions is the best course of action.

Q. My nephew is drawn to violent online games. Can this impact the way he relates to others?

Psychologists have confirmed that playing violent video games is linked to aggressive and callous behaviour.

A report from the APA task force on violent media concluded: “The research demonstrates a consistent relation between violent video game use and increases in aggressive behaviour, aggressive cognitions (thoughts) and aggressive affect (emotions), and decreases in pro-social (i.e. altruistic) behaviour, empathy and sensitivity to aggression.”

Parents would be wise to monitor and limit access to violent scenes in games.

Dr. Van Zwanenberg is a consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist based in the UK. She is the Medical Director of the Woodbourne Priory Hospital in Birmingham and provides Medical Directorship to the Nottingham Priory Hospital. She is presenting on the impact of gadget usage and associated adverse affects on children and young people to the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Westminster Commission. You can find out more about Dr. van Zwanenberg at http://www.drvanzwanenberg.com. 


One of our experts will be happy to help you with any additional questions you might have on gaming addiction.






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