Q&A: Knowing if my child is addicted to gaming

Q: How can I tell whether or not my child is actually addicted to video and computer games? He spends a lot of time gaming, but it’s hard to know whether it’s really that serious of a problem.

A: When it comes to addictive behaviour of any kind, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Researchers at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts, studied hundreds of video-game-addiction cases. They found that addicted gamers’ lives are always significantly disrupted by the games.

That’s what you want to watch out for: disruption. Several symptoms of addiction can help indicate if your son’s gaming has become something more than just a hobby. These include:

  • A lack of balance, and inability to stop the activity. 
  • Isolation, neglecting or lying to family and friends.
  • Problems with school or job.
  • Weight gain, back issues, carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Irritability, defending the use of video games at all costs.
  • Ignoring personal hygiene.
  • Changes or disturbances in sleep patterns. 

If you notice such signs, get tougher about time limits and actively monitor screen time. It’s easier to enforce boundaries if the gaming console or computer is centrally located in your home – keep it out of the bedroom. If your son is losing sleep, or his grades are slipping, you may need to get rid of the equipment entirely.

Admittedly, these conversations are not easy. If your son is clearly obsessed with the game and acts out with severe hostility when unable to play, you may need to seek professional assistance.

Counselling can uncover underlying problems that may be contributing to addiction. However, in most cases, gaming can be controlled with consistent enforcement of limits. The goal is teaching your son decision-making and balance in life, not making him happy. Setting limits is loving, even when there’s some conflict involved.

© 2018 Focus on the Family.  All rights reserved.  Used by permission.

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