Is your child addicted to video games? Here are the signs to look out for

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"Children addicted to gaming may continue playing despite the negative consequences it has on their life." Photo: Unsplash
"Children addicted to gaming may continue playing despite the negative consequences it has on their life." Photo: Unsplash

Gaming addiction is the uncontrollable use of video games characterised by compulsive behaviour. It can develop after a long period of excessive gaming.

People can often develop an addiction to games because they are designed to be naturally addictive by creators who incorporate small "wins" into the game that keep you coming back for more, including high scores and completing levels.

On average, 860 searches each month appear from concerned parents asking 'how to break a child's video game addiction.'

Read: Study suggests video games boost intelligence in children

In 2019, the United Kingdom (UK) opened a clinic specifically to treat children and young adults with addiction to playing video games after the World Health Organisation (WHO) recognised 'gaming disorder' as a medical condition.

The clinic reported seeing about 17 clients between January and May last year, and this year about 56 people entered treatment at the clinic around the same time.

The addiction specialists team at the private rehab clinic, Delamere, also based in the UK, has revealed how to recognise signs that your child is addicted to gaming before it getting out of control and how to prevent it.

Ten signs to look out for

1. Loss of interest in activities

According to the addiction specialists, losing interest in activities they used to enjoy is the first sign of addiction. The specialists say that children who become addicted to games can often start to neglect other things that usually make them happy, such as socialising with family and friends, sports or other hobbies.

2. Irritation when they can't play

Another sign to look out for when suspecting your child is addicted to video games may be to check if they become angry or upset when their games are taken away.

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3. Playing for hours on end

Another obvious sign that parents are warned against is when their child begins to spend hours and hours without a break in front of their devices, and sometimes they may continue to play despite being told to reduce the amount of time they spend gaming.

4. Lying about time spent on gaming

According to the addiction specialists, once your child starts lying or trying to conceal how much time they spend gaming or start going behind their parent's back to play video games, parents should know that they might be dealing with addiction.

5. Talking about their games constantly

Addiction specialists say there is nothing wrong with your child being engaged or passionate about a game they're playing, but when it becomes all they talk or think about, that could be a warning sign of game addiction.

6. Declining school performance

When children start playing games for too long, they become distracted from other responsibilities they may have. The addiction specialists say that those suffering from addiction will often be waiting for school to end so they can play games - which results in making mistakes in class or declining performance in school work.

7. Interrupted sleep habits

When children game while they should be sleeping, they begin to show signs of sleep deprivation and a change in their mood.

8. Being preoccupied, depressed or lonely

Gaming can be pretty isolating, and those addicted to it can often withdraw themselves from people in the real world. This could result in a low mood or withdrawal when you try to engage in conversation with them.

9. Continuous gaming despite negative effects

Children addicted to gaming may continue playing despite the negative consequences it has on their life, including sleep deprivation, losing friends and arguing with their parents.

10. Neglecting personal hygiene

Another symptom of gaming addiction can include neglecting personal hygiene, such as avoiding showers or not changing clothes for days on end so they can spend more time gaming.

Must read: Games are great for learning! A board game creator shares his secrets

How can parents and caregivers prevent gaming addiction?

Dr Catherine Carney, a Delamere psychiatrist, explains how parents can put measures in place to help combat their child's video game addiction.

She notes that one of the most effective methods is setting a timer for your child to play their chosen game. Once the timer has gone off, they have to turn off the computer and move on to a different activity, allowing them to enjoy their game in moderation.

Another strategy is to set up rules that your child will only play with friends - having such restrictions will remove the isolation aspect of gaming addiction, says the psychiatrist.

Dr Carney also suggests a gaming party rather than a lengthy solo session. She says this will allow your child to improve their teamwork and communication skills – offering a healthier environment to indulge in the hobby.

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