The world of online gaming is forever expanding and has become extremely popular over the past decade among younger generations. Although online gaming can help children learn how to socialise and develop observational skills and problem-solving, it can also cause more harm than good if time is not monitored and addiction sets in.
Cybersecurity expert Lauren Mak at VPNOverview.com has put together some top tips on spotting gaming addictions in children and how to prevent them in the hopes that parents and guardians can allow their children to enjoy online gaming without suffering harmful repercussions.
Warning signs of gaming addiction include:
- Lack of interest in things they once shared interest in and have no desire to take part in other activities other than gaming – this can limit a child from being able to pursue other hobbies that they could be exceptional at and even go on to have a career in
- Withdrawal symptoms include irritability, hostility, mood swings, impatience, depression, anxiety and anger when not gaming, even for short periods
- Absence in thought towards personal care: insomnia and disruption in eating patterns – this will have a detrimental effect on a child as they will struggle to deal with everyday tasks and even develop eating disorders
- Inability to look after personal hygiene
- Concentration in school drops due to trouble when focusing – schoolwork and studies are vital to helping children have successful careers and develop as adults
- Decreased amounts of compassion - this will make it harder for the child to create healthy social connections with people and can lead to serious mental health problems
How do children develop an online gaming addiction?
It is easy to try to pinpoint one reason why children and teenagers develop gaming addictions, but in any case, there may be more than one. Children may be exposed to gaming from an early age; for example, playing games like Animal Crossing and Minecraft can introduce children to gaming. As the child gets older and more advanced, they seek more challenging, engaging games to move onto.
Children can also be drawn to the graphics and stories behind games and use them to escape from real life. Not only this, but kids who are particularly anxious or have attention deficit disorders can be more inclined to become addicted to video games.
Physical consequences from excessive gaming:
- Chronic stress levels heightened – this can result in their immune function lowering, which puts them at a higher risk of catching infections and conditions
- Headaches and migraines – this is a terrible symptom to endure as it can hinder their everyday routines and make the child feel exhausted and burnt out
- Weight gain – this becomes due to the child developing a sedentary lifestyle resulting in not just physical issues but also mental health problems
- Problems with posture – this can develop into chronic back pain, joint disfiguration and spinal issues
- Seizures caused by graphics, lights, and colours in games – this can lead to injury from trauma endured during the seizure and have lasting long-term effects
How to prevent and remedy gaming addiction in children and teenagers:
- Firstly, talk to your child and try to pinpoint every problem and symptom they might be feeling – Spend some time identifying your child’s symptoms and express your desire to create a plan of how you will help them overcome.
- Encourage healthy use of screens and downtime – Do as you are preaching! If you are trying to encourage your child to spend less time online, ensure you do the same; this will prove to them that the time you spend offline can be just as exciting as they feel online.
- Offer strategies for coping with withdrawals – Keep an eye on how your child acts when not gaming and offer support. Doing exercise or something stimulating to the brain will have their mind off gaming in no time
- Parental controls are always an option – It sounds invasive, but complete surveillance is ill-advised. By monitoring a child’s gaming, you can allow them to have online time, but only for certain periods. Just remember to be open with the child and let them know they still have a right to privacy, but it will benefit them in the long run.
- Look at gaming more positively – It may seem counterintuitive, but showing an interest in gaming could lead to more positive conversations towards making healthier choices and make them sympathetic towards your wishes.