How to help prevent gaming addiction in children

Dr. Nicole Beurkens

Dr. Nicole Beurkens

Child psychologist

Tips to help your child stay safe during the back to school period
In an age where almost everyone has a phone in their pocket, video gaming is more common than ever before. Many people, especially children and teenagers, find video gaming to be an enjoyable pastime and social activity. However, did you know that about 2% of children and adolescents are addicted to video games? For some children, video games can become more than just a fun activity and begin to cause a number of problems in their lives. As parents, it’s important to recognize and know how to stop gaming addiction, in order to help children develop healthy technology habits as they grow.

What is gaming addiction?

Gaming addiction is commonly referred to as internet gaming disorder (IGD), and is characterized by spending at least 8 to 10 hours per day playing video games. People with IGD use video games as an escape from real-life problems or unpleasant tasks, and can neglect their responsibilities and in-person relationships. Children and teens with IGD often choose to play video games rather than complete schoolwork, chores, or spend time with friends. This can create a variety of academic, social, and developmental issues.

Risk factors for gaming addiction

There are many potential risk factors that can lead to gaming addiction, particularly for children and adolescents. Mental risk factors as well as life circumstances can all contribute to the development of gaming addiction. Here are a few of the most important things to watch out for:

1. Age

IGD is much more prevalent in children and teenagers because they are exposed to video games at a much younger age when their brains are not yet fully developed. Children have a harder time dealing with uncomfortable feelings and situations than adults, and so they may seek out video games as an escape.

2. Family situation

Children with poor relationships with their parents are also more likely to develop gaming addiction; these types of relationships can mean less supervision over electronics usage and can give children another reason to overuse video games.

3. Mental health

Research shows that children with ADHD and depressive symptoms are also much more likely to develop gaming addiction. Conditions like these can cause kids to feel alienated from their peers, and affect the brain’s reward pathways to encourage increased video game use.

4. Time spent on gaming

Children who spend more than 240 minutes playing video games each day have been identified as particularly at-risk for gaming addiction. Increased time spent playing video games can cause kids to want to continue playing even more, especially due to the nature of many multiplayer online games which reward players for this habit.

5. Social skills

Children who have not developed their social skills enough may also seek video games as an alternative to interacting with others in real life. Kids who have trouble making friends or doing activities with others may find video games to be a place where they can have social interactions without most of the effort demanded by in-person encounters.

Technology tips to help with the back to school routine

Warning signs of gaming addiction

Knowing the risk factors goes a long way toward identifying whether your child may be developing a gaming addiction. If you notice that your child has begun to fall behind in school, or isn’t getting the grades they used to, you might consider checking up on their daily electronics use if there isn’t another clear cause of the issue. You could simply keep an eye on them throughout the day to help stop gaming addiction, but for many families this just isn’t possible

Instead, using a parental control tool such as Qustodio can allow you to see how much time they spend on their devices each day. This can be an easy and effective way to help set time limits that prevent children from playing games for too long. Additionally, you may find that your child struggles with poor mood and behavior when they have to be done playing games. This is another important warning sign that they are using video games to get away from dealing with issues in real life.

Ways to prevent gaming addiction

Whether you suspect your child may be developing a gaming addiction or not, there are a few steps that we should always take as parents when our kids reach the age where they can use electronics on a regular basis. Firstly, it’s crucial to set and communicate expectations about electronics use

Creating an agreement between you and your child about where and when electronics may be used helps to educate your child on healthy habits surrounding electronics and important decision-making skills. It can also be very helpful to implement an app like Qustodio so that you can hold your child accountable to your agreement, protect them from harmful content on the internet, and help them set time limits that are conducive to healthy development.

How to deal with child gaming addiction

If you determine that your child has a serious problem with gaming, the most important thing to recognize is that they need your help and support, and that there are likely significant issues hiding behind their addiction. As parents, our job is to help prepare our kids for the real world, and this can be a valuable lesson. Work with them to develop healthy coping strategies for the issues they’re facing, while educating them on the dangers of turning to unhealthy activities as an escape from reality. Again, parental control tools can greatly help in the process of stopping gaming addiction. Try working slowly to reduce their daily time allotment until they are back within normal levels each day, and they will likely appreciate how much better they feel after facing their issues and finding alternative activities to participate in throughout the day. 

Gaming addiction can be a very serious issue for children and teens that can detract from their overall quality of life. It can get in the way of academic and social success, and detract from personal relationships. If it isn’t addressed quickly enough, gaming addiction can severely impact the development of younger kids and make them more susceptible to other addictive behaviors in the future. 

However, as parents we have the ability to help our kids avoid developing a gaming addiction and to support them through the healing process if they already have one. Remember: we want our kids to grow up to be successful, happy adults – even if it means making hard decisions about their electronics use during their growing up years.

Qustodio dashboard | kids screen time

How can Qustodio help protect your family?

Qustodio is the best way to keep your kids safe online and help them create healthy digital habits. Our parental control tools ensure they don't access inappropriate content or spend too much time in front of their screens.

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