Internet Gaming And Your Child
As a psychological consultant, parents often come to me and complain about online gaming behaviors in children and the time they consume in these activities. It is surprising to see that more and more children are becoming addicted to internet gaming. This has taken a toll on their academics, lifestyle, and their social interactions.
The Diagnostic & Statistical Manual-V of Mental Disorders is considering internet gaming disorder as a serious addiction but still has not given it a formal coding to it and is demanding further research on it to state it as a full criterion to include it among the mental disorders. According to DSM-V criteria, Internet Gaming disorder is a persistent and recurrent use of the Internet to engage in games, often with other players, leading to significant clinical distress. It also leads the child to be preoccupied with Internet games throughout the day and it becomes a major part of daily activities. The addicted person would lose interest in all other activities and hobbies and would show symptoms of withdrawal when not allowed to play, such as irritable behavior, anxiety or sadness. They sometimes would know the negative consequences of the gaming behavior, but still would need more and more time to play in order to feel satiated. They sometimes lose important opportunities and relationships because of their participation in Internet games.
Often Internet Gaming starts with the motive of fun and entertainment, and slowly more and more time is spent on it. Moreover, it is played to distract oneself from the things happening around oneself. Internet gaming is a way for many children as well as adults to do away with social interaction, due to a lack of self-esteem. Research has found that some adults and adolescents engage in online video games and play with players around the world in order to gain approval over people virtually and avoid social interaction with them. Once a player gains popularity with the game around the people, there is a high chance that the person will continue playing the game over a long period of time. Moreover, some children start playing video games because the parents wanted them to play for some time so that they can do the household chores when he/she is busy in a virtual world of games.
It is really important to understand a few signs of the child to know if he/she is actually addicted to the online video games.
- Your child’s life will be surrounded by video games. He will talk about his games and how he played it and will keep planning on his next opportunity to play.
- Academic performance of your child will suffer.
- His hunger and hygiene would take a setback.
- He would lose interest in all other activities, including other hobbies, social interaction, etc. His friendships and familial relationships would suffer.
- Try stopping them from playing online video games and they would show irritable behaviors, sad mood, and aggressive tendencies.
Moreover, in the long run, because of online video games, the child has the risk of developing behavioral problems, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, mood disorders, problems of sleep, physiological problems and sometimes somatic complains of pain. In fact, one research was done by some neurobiologists and psychiatrists, which states that excessive playing of online games leads to a decrease in the gray matter of the hippocampus regions of the brain. This decrease can lead a child to have depression, schizophrenia, social disorders, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Evidence also suggests that children who play too much video games often become impulsive and lose self-control when provoked under any circumstance.
To effectively manage the Gaming behavior in the children, it is really important to have some set boundaries fixed for both the child as well as the parents.
Never use it for your benefit:
It is really important for the parents to understand that letting your child play video games and doing the household chores in peace will give your temporary happiness, and later this might turn into a distress for you when the child’s video games become an addiction for him.
If your child is already addicted to the online video games, start the cutting down of the time spent in the video games gradually. Each time you start limiting the time of playing, give something different for the child to engage in, such as an outing with family, outdoor playtime with friends, etc.
Set a time:
The time for playing online should be set. The child must play in those times when the parents are available at home and that time period should be decided with the consent of the child as well.
‘State’ before Gaming starts:
Before the child starts playing a video game, the child must be told about the timings of the game period that he will be allowed to play for that day. This may lead the child to show irritable behavior and aggressive tendencies, but this could be sometimes ignored and could be sometimes attended to with some different and thrilling activity.
Remind a few minutes before the ‘set time’ will end:
Just 10-15 minutes before, remind the child that their online video game-time is about to get over, and remind them of what they had planned to do earlier after the online video gaming is over. This helps the child prepare themselves to stop playing the game and helps them prepare mentally for the next task.
Let your child face consequences:
If your child does not follow the time set by you, then let him face consequences. This could be done in ways like not allowing him to get a candy when he wants to, not letting him touch the computer system for the next few days, etc.
School work first:
Limiting time and letting your child play online video games as a reward for completing the school work, can sometimes make the child pro-active in completing the work. However, it can be used as a trick only once in a while, and not every day.
“Play in the common room” rule:
No child should be allowed to play online video games in their own rooms, away from the notice of the adults. These practices of letting the children play in the common room in the presence of other adults would help the parents and guardians to keep a check on the content of the games the child is playing. The parents must also keep a check if the game has been promoting violence towards any female (or male) subject, and if there are any objectionable change in the behavior of the child, it must be catered immediately.
Teach them to save their unfinished games:
Some games have the option of saving their scores and starting next point from where it ended the previous day. Explain to your child that no game can be completed in a day. So if the child saves the game where it got over, they can continue playing it from the same point the next day as well. This will make the experience of switching off the video game less difficult for the child.
Have family time together:
Sometimes the experience of video games can be used positively by the entire family playing it together. This could act as a stress booster for many parents at the end of the day and could be a time for the child when he enjoys the company of his family and his siblings.
Internet gaming has been a serious problem for many young children and adolescence now. The parents have to play a major role in identifying if their child is addicted to the video games. The intensity of the problem could be successfully treated by the professional psychologists and counselors before this could become a serious mental health issue.
Written by Unmana Dutta