Since the late 1990s, video games have become one of the most popular entertainment options for children and adolescents. Although it has been shown that their use can bring some benefits for children, excessive use can have negative consequences for their development.
Especially since the Covid-19 pandemic, children’s screen time has increased considerably. They no longer only function as a form of entertainment, but have also become part of their routines thanks to online classes. On average, American children spend between 5 and 7 hours watching some kind of screen.
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Playing video games does not always have to be negative, and it has been shown that they can increase concentration, improve visuospatial skills, develop their ability to solve conflicts or problems, among others.
However, parents should be aware of different symptoms of possible addiction. In this article you will see what they are, their consequences and how they can be avoided.
HOW CAN I KNOW IF MY CHILD IS ADDICTED TO VIDEO GAMES?
The WHO recognises “video game disorder” as an official condition and in some countries, such as China and South Korea, there are already centres to treat video game addiction. These are the symptoms you may notice in your child if your child is developing a condition due to video games:
- They are having an impact on their school performance.
- Playing video games for more than 6 hours at a time.
- No interest in spending time with friends, peers or family tukif.
- Mood swings and irritability or anger when unable to play.
- Avoids homework or commitments in order to play.
- Only feels happy when playing.
- Lack of concentration on other activities.
- Does not spend time outdoors.
- Uses video games to avoid problems or difficulties.
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HOW TO PREVENT VIDEO GAME ADDICTION IN CHILDREN?
According to the Healthy Children organisation, there are certain characteristics that can make a child more vulnerable to suffering from video game addiction: boys, suffering from disorders such as anxiety or depression, having problems with aggression or shyness. Also, children suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may be even more prone.
One of the reasons why video games cause addiction is because they activate the brain’s reward system. If a child is unfamiliar with managing their emotions, has low frustration tolerance and problems in their academic or interpersonal life, this can be particularly attractive. However, there are steps parents can take to help their children develop a healthy video game habit:
- Create a schedule for media and screen consumption: Although difficult, especially after the pandemic with the rise of online classes, it is recommended that children spend no more than 2 hours in front of screens.
- Know the games your child plays: It is important to know the type of game, what messages it has and how it can affect them.
- Ideally, keep video games in common areas so that you can keep an eye on them.
- Playing with them can help them to not only bond, but also setting an example of limits can be beneficial.
- Playing outdoors: In addition to video games, it is good to encourage them to do other outdoor activities, as well as having contact with other people. Another excellent option is creative activities, such as painting or playing with toys.