Gaming disorder is an actual mental condition that can disrupt a person’s life. But don’t at once jump to the conclusion that your child has it. Let’s first try to understand what this gaming disorder is and how to identify it.
All people enjoy playing games. Earlier, it was offline games like playing cards and board games. But now, more and more people prefer games on their smart devices or gaming consoles. Children especially get strongly attached to games on these devices. They may even rebel when interrupted mid-game.
However, even if your child spends several hours playing games on smartphones, it doesn’t mean he or she has a gaming disorder.
What is gaming disorder?
Gaming disorder is the mental health condition in which people lose control over their gaming compulsions. It is characterized by a person’s inability to stop playing even when they know they must. The gamer’s addiction is so beyond control that it hampers daily routines and obligations. It takes over all other interests and activities and escalates despite leading to many negative consequences. Gamers may realize the harms of excessive gaming. But they have no control over it.
The situation is worse if a kid gets gaming disorder because they may not even realize how they are harming themselves. Teenagers might be more at risk of developing this disorder. Some studies also suggest that boys and young men have a greater risk of disordered gaming behavior, compared to girls and young women.
Symptoms of the gaming disorder:
Not all children or adults who love playing games have gaming disorder. As per National Health Portal, India, a diagnosis of gaming disorder is usually given if the gaming compulsion is severe enough to cause significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational, and other important areas of functioning. And this kind of compulsive gaming has continued for at least 12 months. However, if the symptoms are severe and causing a serious impairment in day-to-day functioning, even people affected for shorter duration may be diagnosed with gaming disorder.
• Loss of control: Children with this disorder cannot control their gaming time. They continue playing when they know they should study, meet a friend, sleep, etc. They will find ways to continue playing even when parents order them to stop. Even when they themselves feel they should stop, they cannot. The lure of games is beyond their control.
• Gaming above everything else: For a person suffering from gaming disorder, nothing is more important than games. No other interest or obligation matters. A child who has this disorder will ignore studies, social activities with friends, may even ignore food till forced to eat. Their gaming addiction may cut them off from all other childhood activities and affect their studies and health.
• Lying about gaming: A child and even an adult with the gaming disorder will lie about his or her gaming time. They know they are ignoring their obligations because of games. So they lie. When a child lies about gaming, it might seem like a little thing. All children love playing, after all. But by compulsive gaming and frequently lying about it, they may lose the trust of their friends and family. And they may develop the habit of lying about other things too.
Effects of gaming disorder on children:
• While sports make children active and healthier, games on smart devices or gaming consoles adversely affect their health. Children addicted to games on smart devices or gaming consoles will continue sitting in one place for long durations. They will ignore all outdoor and extracurricular activities. This sedentary lifestyle may lead to obesity and other health problems in children.
• Staring at the screens for a long duration may even harm children’s eyes. Especially if children continue playing games on their phones even in the dark.
• Gaming on smartphones, tabs, or iPads at night may disturb children’s sleep. This can make them irritable and moody.
• Children and teenagers who play a lot of violent games may have more aggressive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. They may become immune to violence and more inclined to act violently. They may have reduced empathy, become emotionally callous, and show less interest in helping others.
• Gaming disorder also compels children to ignore friends and social interactions. They may also lie to friends and family to continue playing. Their sleep and health might get affected. All of this can affect their mood and make them more prone to loneliness, social anxiety, and depression.
What to do if you feel your child has gaming disorder?
First of all, make sure that your child really has this mental health condition. It affects only a small number of people. Besides, most kids love playing on smart devices. So, don’t jump to any quick conclusion. However, if love of games is causing significant impairment in your child’s functioning and harming his or her health, studies, and social life, then you need to intervene. If this has been going on for several months, it might be gaming disorder. And if all your efforts to control this addiction fail, you should consult a mental health practitioner. With care and timely action, you can save your child from smartphone addiction and gaming disorder.