When I was growing up in the 80’s, we couldn’t afford a Nintendo Entertainment System, but it was always the highlight of weekend sleepovers at Granny’s house. By the 90s, our Friday nights were consumed by endless rounds of Tekken, Twisted Metal and teenage banter. Now, as a father of 3, I game to relieve stress at the end of a long day in the office.
Obviously, with a gamer as their father, my kids are avid gamers. And that’s usually fine. Usually. At various points in their lives, it has been a problem though. And who can blame them? Video games allow them to escape the troubles of reality, express themselves in ways impossible in real life and explore situations and worlds only limited by the culmination of human creativity. All from the comfort of home.
As parents, it is our duty to guide our children around the pitfalls of life, and this is no different. So, when does gaming become a problem?
Lack of motivation
Gaming can be so immersive that your child may find enough fulfillment in-game to replace the need to pursue interests in real life. A quantifiable warning sign is a slip in their grades, but others may be a lack of interest in participating in extracurricular activities or showing no desire to get a first job, learn to drive or any other normal childhood milestones.
Many modern games have social aspects built into them. Children may see this as a replacement for face-to-face social interaction — even with members of their own household. Ever have your child tell you that they don’t know how to talk to people, but always seem to be talking to friends online? Another warning sign is when they stop attending, or show aversion to, attending social events like school dances and family parties.
For the most part, gaming is a sedentary activity, which often spans several hours or longer. Health issues such as weight gain and eye strain are not uncommon. And that’s not to mention the host of problems that accompany sleep deprivation.
This may come as a shock to some, but gaming can become a true addiction. Some signs of gaming addiction include thinking about gaming even when not playing, lying about how much time is spent gaming, being unable to stop playing even when knowing it’s an issue and showing withdrawal symptoms such as irritability and apathy when not gaming.
What can you do?
If you think your child may have a gaming problem, the first step is to talk to them. Talk about why you feel it’s a problem, and what you can do together to solve it. If that still doesn’t work, you may need to set gaming time limits. Just remember, this may not alleviate the underlying issues causing the desire to game. And if you believe your child is truly suffering from gaming addiction, please reach out to your doctor or mental health provider for help.