While technology has many advantages, parents need to be aware of the harmful impacts also. In 2013, Internet Gaming Disorder was considered an area which warranted further study. 2018 has seen the introduction of Gaming Addiction as a recognised disorder by the WHO (World Health Organisation), and it is now included in the 11th Edition of the International Classification of Diseases.
The importance of identifying issues which impact on Mental Health is of paramount importance, if there is to be any chance of preventing the onset of a mental illness. There are countless variables we experience in our lives, which can have a negative impact on Mental Health. The online world introduces a whole host of more new issues, to accompany the very real world problems, of finances, occupation or relationship matters which can dominate our thinking by means of intrusive, or negative thoughts.
Addiction is generally identified by a number of very specific factors such as, excessive overuse, disruptive sleep patterns, a reduction in productivity in home, school, college or work, disruption of daily routines or normal social life, the experience of withdrawal symptoms, or a repeated pattern of use, despite negative personal consequences. Anything which causes us to experience pleasure, has the potential to become something we are addicted to.
Addiction can be difficult to identify, is it excessive use, or an addiction. I was really intrigued by the example of, “we all wear shoes everyday, so does that mean that everyone is addicted to shoes”. I would suggest not, however there are those with incredible shoe collections. Deciding if your child is suffering from Gaming Addiction can be difficult to identify. A quick rule of thumb to assist parents is, whether the time spent online or Gaming, is having a real world negative impact on the child now or in the future as a result of the overuse. If the answer is yes, then it is time to reduce the amount of time spent online or gaming.
Children are constantly exposed to screens from the moment they wake up, right up until they go to sleep. Parents should factor in all of the time spent watching T.V., using a tablet or Smartphone, and time spent online and gaming as a total sum of daily use. If the figure is high then reduce it. Parents should also be aware, certain personality types are more susceptible to addictive behaviour than others. Those who are introverted, or use devices for validation, those who are easily bored, self-conscious, or perhaps lonely, even those who suffer from social anxiety, can find themselves drawn in to an online world where they can recreate themselves. A place where they can be what they want to be, rather than who they are.
It is still early days for research in this area. Until we have the definitive answer of how much is too much, it is best to ensure that children use the devices and play games do so in moderation.