For Hectic Moms – Tips To Make More Me-Time
Is your child addicted to gaming? Here’s how you can tell.
The TastyMoments team have a few gamers in our households. We’ve been chatting (over a couple of Ital Pizza Classics for a quick and easy lunch) about what we consider healthy habits when it comes to playing in the virtual world. The new Netflix documentary, “Not A Game”, takes a closer look at the role of gaming in the modern world and assesses its pros and cons. The pros are often very case-specific, telling stories of chronically ill and disabled children who have found new life in the online world. The stories of the downside of gaming are mostly of teens suffering from gaming addiction that eventually becomes unmanageable. So, we asked the question, how would we know if our children are addicted to gaming? And if so, what can we do about it.
First of all, gaming addiction is defined as “the excessive or compulsive use of computer and video games that may interfere with daily life.” The reason people become addicted to gaming rests in our brain response and how we release dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter (a chemical messenger in the brain) released when we expect a reward or a positive outcome. Doing drugs, for instance, releases dopamine and people chase that “dopamine high”. According to Healthline.com, “When you come to associate a certain activity with pleasure, mere anticipation may be enough to raise dopamine levels. It could be a certain food, sex, shopping, or just about anything else that you enjoy. It’s a cycle of motivation, reward, and reinforcement.” Studies conducted by the California State University found that video games can have a similar effect on children’s brains as drug abuse or alcoholism.
So when your child throws an insane tantrum because you’ve switched off a game, you know that it’s due to their brain’s chemical response, much like when drugs are taken away from a drug addict. However, it’s also reassuring to know that true gaming addiction (in the clinical sense) is not that common, affecting around 6%-15% of gamers.
According to Parent.com – you should keep a lookout for the following signs of addiction if you’re concerned.
- Does your child talk about their game(s) incessantly?
- Does your child play for hours on end?
- Does your child get defensive when you try to discuss their excessive gaming habit?
- Does your child get angry or explosive when made to stop?
- Does your child sacrifice basic needs (e.g., sleep) to game?
- Does your child hide or downplay time spent gaming?
- Does your child seem preoccupied, depressed, or lonely?
If your child exhibits any of these symptoms, they may be addicted to gaming. There are several ways to encourage your child to spend less time online. The most obvious being that you limit gaming time to an hour or two a day. Other methods include reinforcing the perspective that gaming is a hobby or a pastime – not who you are or a way of life. There’s more to life than gaming, and it helps to take the kids on outings or reinforce other positive behaviours (like tossing a ball in the back yard) when they’re not playing. Another idea is to remove the gaming console or computer from your child’s room when game time is off-limits. In extreme cases, you may need to get a therapist or counsellor involved. Like any addiction, the root of the problem may not sit in the “drug” itself but the person using it to escape from other troubles. Ensure open lines of communication and try and find the root cause of your child’s gaming obsession.
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