Has your child's gaming habit gone haywire?

“Gaming disorder” is now a thing, according to no less an authority than the World Health Organization. But how much gaming is too much? And how worried should parents be?

First things first: a gaming habit that reaches the level of “disorder” is rare. Experts estimate it affects no more than around nine percent of all gamers - adults and children alike. (No prizes for guessing that it’s far more common among males than females.) 

That means literally billions of people around the world enjoy gaming safely.

But there are facts about gaming that every parent should be aware of, according to gamequitters.com. 

Getting hooked

For starters, games are designed to keep users hooked. The most compelling games are immersive experiences that stimulate dopamine production in the brain - as do all exciting experiences. But too much gaming can mean users become accustomed to a level of stimulation that, to be maintained, requires ever-greater exposure.

If that sounds like an addictive pattern, it’s because it is.

Game developers build in features that encourage what are essentially cravings for more: in-app purchases, microtransactions, loot boxes and the like.

Kids (and adults too) may be unaware that the companies who create games are not in it for the fun. They’re in it for the profit - and billions of dollars of it are up for grabs. In a nutshell, the more gamers get hooked, the more money they make.

What is "gaming disorder"?

In its International Classification of Diseases, WHO defines gaming disorder as “a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour, 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.”

Let’s break that down to a few simple questions. 

  1. Has gaming become THE most important activity in your child’s life. Does it seem to be all they think about?
  2. Does your child freak out when you try to impose limits, or take the game away entirely? Do they show extreme irritability, anxiety, boredom, cravings or sadness?
  3. Has their time spent gaming been steadily, or markedly, increasing? Do they seem to need the game to be happy, or to calm FOMO (fear of missing out)?
  4. Have they tried in the past to cut down their gaming habit, but failed?
  5. Have they lost interest in other activities they used to enjoy - hobbies, sports, other forms of entertainment, face-to-face socialising?
  6. Do they admit that too much gaming makes them feel irritable or angry, but continue to play as if powerless to stop the urge?
  7. Have they ever lied to you about how much time they spend gaming, or what games they’re playing, or how they’re playing them (using online chat, for example, or making in-app purchases)?
  8. Do you notice your child is using gaming as a mood stabiliser - self-medicating feelings of helplessness, anxiety or shame?
  9. Is your child’s gaming habit affecting their schoolwork? Are they racing through homework to get back to it?

What parents can do

If the answer to five or more of these questions is “yes” over a 12-month period, experts advise it may be time to seek professional help.

But what about cases where your child’s gaming is starting to concern you, but doesn’t reach the level of an actual “disorder”? 


Family Zone cyber experts recommend:

  • Learn as much as you can about your child’s favourite games - play along, if possible. And make that the basis for an open, blame-free conversation about the place of gaming in their life. 
  • Ask your child what limits they believe would be appropriate. You may be pleasantly surprised by the answer!
  • Be sure whatever rules you set are clear - and clearly understood by your child.
  • Discuss the “I’m in the middle of a game!” excuse, and decide how to handle it going forward.
  • Set up, and communicate, straightforward consequences when rules are bent or broken. (And that will happen!)
  • Use parental controls to automate and enforce the limits you’ve agreed on.

Manage your child's gaming habit on every device, everywhere, with Family Zone's strong, flexible parental controls.

Start your free trial right now, and create a home where digital children thrive.

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Topics: Parental Controls, Screen time, Mobile Apps, online gaming, gaming addiction, World Health Organisation, gaming disorder

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